Children's wards are at once the most heartbreaking and inspiring of any hospital system. No one wants to see young ones in need of hospital treatment and care, away from the loving security of their families, for a moment longer than necessary. At the same time, the doctors and nurses that specialise in looking after them somehow seem special. It is a curious accident of history and spending priorities that our public healthcare system - the envy of many countries - does not have a children's hospital. That this has not been a major issue is silent testimony to the quality of medical care available at minimal cost in public hospitals to every Hong Kong child. Nonetheless it is good news that the city is finally getting one, albeit not until 2016 - a 468-bed 'centre of excellence in paediatrics', which will absorb some of the 1,450 public paediatric beds spread among various hospitals. This will put the advanced treatment of complicated diseases and conditions, professional exchanges and research and teaching under the one roof. It will also raise the profile of children's medicine in competing for resources, keeping abreast of the latest international advances in treatment and research - and attracting the best clinical and research talent. It is interesting that while the centre will come under the Hospital Authority, it will be a public-private hospital venture overseen by a board also representing private doctors, the two medical schools, relevant non-government organisations and patients' groups. While children referred from public hospitals will continue to be charged HK$100 a day, those from private doctors will pay a regulated, private rate. This is closer to the integrated public-private concept envisaged in proposed reforms of health care, with more emphasis on primary care by the family doctor and preventive medicine, while hospitals focus on serious or complex cases. Given the pace of the proposed reforms, it may yet serve as a practical model.