Hong Kong health care and hospitals

HK$1 million funding boost will allow seven more lung transplants a year

The city has an average of 30 patients in need of such operations annually, but about 40 per cent die before receiving a new organ

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 4:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 October, 2017, 4:07pm

Hong Kong’s only hospital programme specialising in lung transplants is set to receive seven more patients a year after securing HK$1 million in one-off government funding to improve its facilities and ramp up lobbying efforts for organ donations.

Grantham Hospital and Queen Mary Hospital, which jointly run the programme, will also receive eight additional medical staff and an annual funding of HK$2.5 million (US$320,000) for equipment upgrades on ventilators as well as artificial heart and lung machines.

Both public facilities are under the Hong Kong West group of hospitals, which has conducted 12 lung transplants this year. The operations are carried out at Queen Mary and patients are then transferred to Grantham for follow-up treatment and recovery.

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Dr Luk Che-chung, chief of the hospital group, said the arrangement was in response to an increasing demand for the surgery because of growing awareness about organ donation and a surge in patients.

“We estimate that we can at least help seven more patients every year [after the additional funding],” Luk said on Tuesday.

Patients who need lung transplants has surged from 14 annually a decade ago to about 30 in recent years, but about 40 per cent die before receiving a new lung.

Luk stressed that encouraging the public to support organ donation was still the key to saving more lives, and more manpower would be deployed to encourage such action.

Healthy individuals can also donate part of their lungs if they are a match with the patient, subject to the approval of the hospitals’ ethical board.

Hong Kong has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world – only 5.8 donors per one million people.

About 250,000 people have signed up to be on the government’s Centralised Organ ­Donation ­Register, accounting for 3.4 per cent of the population. The register compiles details of those who have indicated their wish to donate their organs after death, and enables medical personnel to arrange for such transplants.

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There are 17 patients on the city’s waiting list for a new lung, and the waiting period can range from a few days to years, according to Dr Yan See-wan, Grantham Hospital’s associate consultant of tuberculosis and chest medicine.

More medical manpower was needed to assess lung patients and give them better recovery care after the operation, Dr Chau chi-ung, chief of service at the same department, said.

He said he expected more complicated cases, and more patients requiring the use of additional medical equipment such as artificial heart and lung machines.

The boost for the lung transplant programme is among a series of proposals under the annual plan of the Hong Kong West group of hospitals.

The group would employ an additional 150 staff including seven doctors and 50 nurses, Luk said.

Its cancer care will also be enhanced to provide an extra 2,800 attendance slots daily for chemotherapy, and 11,150 slots for physiotherapy to cover weekends and public holidays.