Hong Kong to get its first sex-change centre

Transsexuals will have facility dedicated to their needs at Prince of Wales Hospital amid greater demand for gender reassignment

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 September, 2013, 5:00am

The first medical centre for transsexuals will be established at the public Prince of Wales Hospital, to meet increasing demand from patients diagnosed with gender identity disorder.

At least two surgeons will take over the work of Dr Albert Yuen Wai-cheung - the only doctor in Hong Kong performing sex-change surgery - after his retirement in 2015.

"We feel that it is time for us to reorganise our service in the face of an increasing demand and the upcoming retirement of Dr Yuen," Hospital Authority chief executive Leung Pak-yin said while he was announcing the plan yesterday.

"The demand is due to the increased openness of society, and more patients who are now willing to seek help."

The news came four months after a groundbreaking Hong Kong court decision allowing a female transsexual to marry her boyfriend.

The number of patients seeking gender counselling rose from 46 in 2008 to 95 last year, while those diagnosed with gender identity disorder rose from 34 in 2008 to 70 last year.

About 10 per cent were referred for psychiatric assessment of their suitability for surgery, and the number actually having the operation ranged from two to six a year over the period.

People with the disorder experience significant distress from strong, persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender, and discomfort with their own assigned sex.

"Not all patients who are diagnosed with the disorder want to undergo surgery," said the authority's chief manager on quality and standards, Dr Alexander Chiu.

"Some of them only require psychiatric treatment, medicine, or wearing different kinds of clothes to make them feel good."

Chiu said a task force had been formed this month to look into the services offered by the new centre at the Sha Tin hospital and identify potential candidates for the medical team.

The new centre will provide sex-change surgery from both genders.

It will offer comprehensive treatment from various departments including general surgery, plastic surgery, urology, gynaecology and psychology.

Ruttonjee Hospital, where Yuen is now surgery chief of service, will continue to provide male-to-female reassignment - which is less complicated than female to male - even after he retires. At least two surgeons, one from each hospital, will succeed Yuen.

So far, a total of 27 patients have undergone sex-change surgery in Hong Kong, including 16 from male to female and 11 from female to male.

Additional resources required for the new centre would be requested during the authority's annual planning exercise from 2015 to 2016, Chiu said.