Haven of Hope Hospital, a former missionary sanatorium now under the wing of the Hospital Authority, says it is struggling in substandard conditions while a HK$600 million improvement project has languished on hold for four years.
Haven of Hope Christian Service CEO Dr Lam Ching-choi said the group was disappointed to see the project left out of the authority's budget again this year while construction costs shot up and doubts remained whether its facilities met government standards.
The situation has been complicated by changes to the original design made after the NGO acquired additional land around the Tseung Kwan O site. Unless a deadline is met by the end of this month, tendering may have to start all over again.
'We can wait, but our patients cannot wait any longer,' Lam told the South China Morning Post. 'The hospital building is now weather-beaten and worn out. There are cracks on the walls. The ceilings are peeling off. The beds are old and sometimes there are bugs biting people.'
While the project was delayed, estimated construction costs rose HK$100 million to HK$600 million as of September, he said.
'It was not meant to be a hospital when it was built and some of the infrastructure - for example, the infection-control standard - strictly speaking may not meet the requirements of the government.'
The public hospital was set up by missionaries as a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1955 to provide medical relief services for the refugees then flocking to the city. It is now one of 20 hospitals operating under schedule II of the Hospital Authority - meaning they are co-run by the government and a parent organisation.
Haven of Hope - founded as the Junk Bay Medical Relief Council - also runs elderly and spiritual care. The hospital was brought into the schedule II network in 1991.
A person familiar with the improvement project said it had become complicated in 2010 when the government allowed the NGO to acquire the extra land, meaning the scale of the original design, prepared in 2008, had to be expanded.
But the government declined to pay an extra consulting fee of about HK$2 million on top of the HK$7 million already budgeted by the authority. Eventually, in January, the NGO said that it would pick up the extra consulting costs.
But a deadlock remains between the authority and the contractors who refused to modify the original design.
'The authority has set a deadline at the end of April for the contractor to confirm the plan, or else the project tendering will start all over again,' the person said.
The Hospital Authority said it was now tentatively proposed to put the design to the government next year. Meanwhile, professionals continue to monitor the condition of the old infirmary wards and do maintenance and repair work when needed.
Lam said it was harder for Schedule II hospitals to get funding.
'Unlike mainstream hospitals that can gain a lot of attention, we are seeing a lot of complications during the application process. And almost always, we are left to shoulder part of the funding on our own.'
Under the reprovisioning project, a new compound 300 metres away from the current site would provide several dozen extra beds on top of the 425 beds now available for specialised services.
The NGO has collected enough to cover 10 per cent of the expected cost through its own fundraising efforts. The government would have to pay the rest.
Lam said he was disappointed when the budget proposal left out the hospital, while some HK$15 billion was reserved for the reconstruction of Queen Mary and Kwong Wah hospitals.