Hong Kong’s first children’s hospital to open with only half its beds due to manpower shortage
City’s first specialist hospital for serious children’s illnesses to pull doctors and nurses from existing hospitals as patient groups urge extra support services
Hong Kong Children’s Hospital will open in the fourth quarter of this year with 200 fewer beds than its original goal due to a manpower shortage, the institution said on Tuesday.
The HK$13 billion (US$1.67 billion) hospital will be the city’s first to specialise in treating and researching complex, serious and uncommon illnesses afflicting children. Located at the Kai Tak development area, the hospital will consist of two towers, each 11 storeys high, with a planned capacity of 468 inpatient and day beds.
“We plan to have 268 beds in the first year from 2018 to 2019, and gradually increase in to 468,” said Dr Lee Tsz-leung, chief executive of Hong Kong Children’s Hospital. Lee spoke during a Legislative Council meeting of the subcommittee on children’s rights.
In its first phase, the hospital will offer services in only four out of 12 planned specialities. The four specialities are cardiology and cardiac surgery, nephrology, oncology and paediatric surgery. Doctors and nurses are to be reassigned there from existing institutions such as Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret hospitals.
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Asked about the reason for the manpower shortage, Lee said: “We can’t pull all of the experienced paediatricians from existing hospitals as they need time to recruit and train the new hands.”
Lawmakers, patients’ groups and activists called for a one-stop centre to diagnose, treat and educate children with rare diseases. Support for the families of those in hospital as well as training for the doctors should also be included, they argued.
Subcommittee chairman Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung agreed that support was needed for the affected families.
Hong Kong Alliance for Rare Diseases president Tsang Kin-ping said the hospital should establish a database to track rare cases and provide services based on individual situations. Such a database would help the city carry out research and development on rare diseases, he added.
Labour Party chairman Steven Kwok Wing-kin suggested the hospital employ tutors to educate those who were admitted for a long time. He backed offering music and leisure classes as well.
Lisa Ringner Nackter, of the NGO Pathfinders, called on officials to help the unborn children of foreign domestic helpers, who do not get access to public health care if they get pregnant and lose their jobs.
Choi Fung-yee, of the Hong Kong Society for Asylum Seekers and Refugees, said the process for asylum seekers to obtain certain certificates needed for public health care was too long. He urged the Food and Health Bureau to work with the Immigration Department to accelerate the processing time.