Teaching hospital in push to upgrade facilities

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong's oldest teaching hospital is in need of a revamp, says its chief executive.

The 74-year-old Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam is running out of space and many medical facilities are outdated. Dr Luk Che-chung, the chief executive, said the hospital needed to modernise.

'Many of our hospital wards are very packed and old,' he said. 'Our accident and emergency room is one of the smallest in town, our equipment hasn't kept up with our services. We hope we can finalise the redevelopment plan soon.'

Despite its reputation as one of the city's finest, for several years now the 1,500-bed hospital has been struggling with the need to expand. Insufficient space is the biggest hurdle for the redevelopment, Luk said.

The redevelopment plan - including demolishing an old nursing quarters and replacing it with a trauma and cardiac centre - was shelved after the quarters were classified as a historical building two years ago. The nursing quarters opened in December 1936, four months before the hospital's official opening. It has been used as overnight accommodation for female medical staff since the nursing school closed in 2001.

As no new site is available in Pok Fu Lam for the redevelopment, an alternative plan being studied is to tear down two other blocks, the professorial and administration buildings, to meet growing demand.

The Architectural Services Department will soon come up with a plan for the Hospital Authority.

There have been repeated complaints from doctors that the hospital facilities - including operating theatres and wards - are at least three decades behind the standards of new hospitals. For example, most of the hospital's operating theatres are located on different floors, making it difficult to centrally sterilise medical equipment and make better use of nursing resources.

Professor Lo Chung-mau, head of the University of Hong Kong liver transplant team at the Queen Mary Hospital, earlier told the South China Morning Post how developments in surgery are 'suffocated' by the hospital's outdated facilities and equipment.

The hospital will pump extra resources into making changes that may look trivial to some but will make a huge difference to patients and medical staff.

The hospital's outpatient clinics, for example, plan to install electronic display boards so that patients can monitor their position in the queue. Some patients complained that they have been unable to leave waiting areas because they don't know how long they will have to wait.

The hospital also wants to replace the old passenger lifts with 'barrier-free' models so medical staff can use their phones and pagers in lifts.

The hospital also plans to improve clinical services. That means the liver transplant team would finally get its own nursing team, with 12 extra nurses, to deal with emergency cases. Last year, 96 patients had liver transplants at the hospital, and that number is expected to rise.

'Liver transplants are very complicated and time-consuming and they need a team operating across two to three shifts,' Luk said.

'Now, when there's an emergency case, we have to take medical staff from other scheduled services. The new arrangement would minimise disruptions.'