The Hospital Authority has set up a special emergency rescue team to help accident and natural disaster victims who are trapped in wreckage.
The team will operate out of Tuen Mun Hospital and will be sent to any accident scene where an on-site amputation is necessary to free someone.
Dr Chow Yuk-yin, head of the orthopaedics and traumatology department for New Territories West, said the team had been set up to cope with natural disasters such as landslides or accidents such as building collapses. Chow said although firefighters had state-of-the-art rescue equipment, it was difficult to free people trapped under concrete.
"We'll go to any accidents anywhere in the city," Chow said, adding that this kind of emergency rescue was rarely needed in Hong Kong and the team was the first of its kind here.
The team will have one doctor, one nurse and one paramedic from the accident and emergency department and one doctor and one nurse from the orthopaedics and traumatology section, who will bring the equipment and drugs necessary to perform an on-site amputation.
The accident and emergency doctor would sedate the patient, and the other doctor would carry out the operation.
"The amputation decision would be made by the two doctors, with the patient's consent," Chow said. "If the patient is unconscious, the two doctors will make a decision they deem to be in the patient's best interests."
Antibiotics would be used to minimise the risk of infection, since the surgery would not be done in a sterile environment. Amputations could be completed in about 10 to 15 minutes, Chow said, allowing the patient to be freed from the site.
The team was formed last month and has taken part in a joint drill with police, firefighters and others in Nim Wan, in the Tuen Mun district.