Empty schools suitable for private hospitals, lawmaker says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 July, 2009, 12:00am

Vacant schools in urban areas could be converted into private hospitals, the medical sector legislator suggested yesterday.

The four plots of land assigned by the government for the development of private hospitals were 'remote and unfavourable', independent lawmaker Leung Ka-lau said during the radio programme Letter to Hong Kong yesterday.

'When the economy deteriorates ... private hospitals in remote areas may have difficulty in competing with those in urban areas.'

He said the four plots of land offered by the government - in Wong Chuk Hang, Tung Chung, Tseung Kwan O and Tai Po, with areas of between 2.2 and four hectares - were too large and about half a hectare should be big enough for a hospital.

'The actual size of the land occupied by existing private hospitals in Hong Kong ranges from 0.06 hectares to 0.7 hectares,' he said.

But Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok said during an earlier Legislative Council meeting that the government had decided on the size of the land needed after 'a thorough consultation with the industry'.

'If the plot of land is too small, the hospital can only be developed vertically, meaning that many services can only be accessed by elevator. This is not ideal for a hospital.'

Dr Chow also said that vacated schools might not be suitable for conversion into hospitals as they would need special infrastructure for ventilation and processing medical waste. But Dr Leung said the government should offer more land so medical investors had more options.

'From a commercial point of view, the larger the size of the land, the bigger the investment and the higher the risk,' he said. 'Invariably, that would be reflected in the cost of services provided and be finally taken on by the patients.'