Eight years ago when Anthony Wu Ting-yuk was appointed chairman of the Hospital Authority, he knew Queen Mary Hospital had to be rebuilt.
Yet it was only this year that the budget was finally approved for the project, and the work will not be finished until 2025.
Wu is not happy about how long all this has taken, but he says there doesn't seem to be any way to speed up the project. The hospital is built on a slope, with limited space for work, so that demolition and building have to be done bit by bit.
Wu recalled noticing the worn state of the Pok Fu Lam hospital in 2004, as he walked along a corridor from Block S to Block K.
'I was there with some visitors ... and I thought how embarrassing it was,' he said. 'Parts of the hospital even flooded two years ago, although it's a flagship hospital for teaching.'
He also found that 20 per cent of the lifts had broken down. 'The hospital's design was too old.'
The hospital's first structures were built scattered apart, in the 1930s, with surgical wards separated in different blocks, he said.
When he took over the management of Hong Kong's public hospitals, Wu, who was not a medical professional, spent a week observing the work in surgical wards.
'I watched them doing operations like liver transplants, and found that the poor doctors had to run from block to block to perform different operations, especially during emergencies.' A good hospital should have its surgical wards all in one place, he said.
Although the need to rebuild was urgent, the project was held up by calls for heritage conservation.
The authority was forced to set aside its plans to demolish Block A, the nurses' quarters, in 2008 to erect a trauma and cardiac centre on the site by 2013.
'It was one of the problems which made me very unhappy. I was very disappointed,' Wu said.
The HK$7 billion passed this year for the hospital's redevelopment will focus on upgrading emergency and cardiology services, but will not add extra beds to the 1,400-bed hospital.