Extra isolation wings at three hospitals are merely a delaying tactic, say legislators Legislators and a doctors' group have criticised a government plan to add infectious disease treatment wings to three hospitals rather than building a single, dedicated infectious disease hospital. They were speaking after Hospital Authority director Ko Wing-man told the Legislative Council's health services panel of short and medium-term plans for improving infectious disease facilities in the wake of the Sars outbreak. Dr Ko said isolation wards would be built at nine public hospitals by October, and three of the nine - Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung, Tuen Mun Hospital and Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital at Tai Po - would get an infectious disease block within three years. The short-term work would cost $400 million and provide 167 isolation rooms with 492 beds for confirmed infectious-disease patients and 369 isolation rooms with 789 beds for suspected cases. The isolation rooms will have one to four beds available, depending on the severity of infection. Dr Ko said it had not been decided whether to build an infectious diseases hospital. He said such a project would be for the long term, since it would take at least six years to complete. Legislator Lo Wing-lok called the government's plans a delaying tactic. 'Building an infectious disease hospital is not an option in the mind of [Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food] Yeoh Eng-kiong. The plan [presented] today confirmed they do not think there is such a need. But no one can say for sure that there will not be ... another serious infectious disease outbreak which could be far more serious than Sars,' he said. Legislator Michael Mak Kwok-fung, representing the health services sector, said the government's plan was shortsighted. 'I wonder if the government has ever considered the serious consequences if ... there is another outbreak? Improving nine hospitals' Sars facilities means nine different Sars-handling methods even if there is one set of guidelines, which is not an ideal situation.' 'What the government is doing is a tactic to buy time, hoping the demand [for a separate disease hospital] will go away if it is dragged on long enough.' Kwok Ka-ki, convenor of the Action Group on Medical Policy, an independent medical think-tank, said: 'If the government finally decided to go ahead with one big infectious diseases hospital in future, wouldn't these new blocks go to waste?'