5,000 more hospital beds and better operating facilities by 2026, Hong Kong No 2 official says
Chief secretary urges lawmakers to quickly approve request this summer as high occupancy rates and staff shortages continue
As long waits at Hong Kong’s overstretched public hospitals persist, the city’s No 2 official assured on Sunday that 5,000 more beds, a new accident and emergency unit and better operating facilities would be added by 2026.
The health care overhaul confirmed by Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung would draw upon five funding proposals to upgrade four hospitals and build a new hospital with A&E services in Kai Tak.
Writing about the plan on his blog, Cheung urged lawmakers to quickly approve the request, which is to be submitted by July.
“These projects relate to people’s livelihood,” he said. “I earnestly hope the [Legislative Council] Finance Committee will consider Hong Kong’s long-term interest and people’s well-being, and scrutinise the proposals pragmatically.”
The projects form part of the government’s plan, announced two years ago, to spend HK$200 billion (US$25.4 billion) to build new facilities including 5,000 hospital beds – 2,400 alone at Kai Tak – and 94 operating theatres by 2026.
The four enhancement projects the chief secretary noted were Queen Mary and Grantham hospitals on Hong Kong Island, as well as Kwong Wah and Our Lady of Maryknoll hospitals in Kowloon.
The Kai Tak hospital, in densely populated Kowloon East, would relieve the burden on United Christian Hospital, which has for years been the only public hospital with an accident and emergency unit in the area. On Saturday, for example, United Christian had a bed occupancy rate of 119 per cent, compared with the average rate of 104 per cent across the city’s 17 public hospitals.
The opposition pan-democratic camp, which holds 26 of 68 seats in Legco, had earlier met officials to discuss a list of 79 proposals that the government would like the finance panel to approve. The camp agreed that the hospital plan was not controversial, meaning they would likely pass it before the summer recess starts in mid-July.
Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, who represents Kowloon East, called for building at Kai Tak to start “as soon as possible”.
“It is now taking too long for ambulances to go from nearby Wong Tai Sin district to United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong or Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei,” he said.
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Wong Tai Sin is home to 425,000 people, with most being lower-income residents or elderly people living in public or subsidised housing estates.
In his budget address in February, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced the government had earmarked HK$300 billion to cover the second 10-year hospital development plan under the Hospital Authority. Expected to start in 2026, it involves the redevelopment and construction of both existing and new public hospitals.