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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Manpower shortages leave new Hong Kong Children’s Hospital without time frame for rolling out full service

The HK$13 billion hospital will receive cancer and kidney disease outpatients when it starts operating in the fourth quarter

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 9:49pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 10:29pm

There is still no time frame for Hong Kong’s first children’s hospital to be fully operational because of a shortage of medical staff in the public sector, the hospital’s boss said on Wednesday, although the institution is set to open in months.

The HK$13 billion (US$1.7 billion) Hong Kong Children’s Hospital, the first to provide specialty care for rare and complex paediatric cases, will receive cancer and kidney disease outpatients whose condition is deemed stable when it starts operating in the fourth quarter this year.

But the hospital, located in Kai Tak, will not be able to take all the cases under five paediatric oncology centres at public hospitals until the first quarter next year.

Dr Lee Tsz-leung, the hospital’s chief executive, said there was no exact timeline on when the hospital could be operating fully.

“For full service, there is an overall shortage of doctors and nurses in the whole Hospital Authority system,” Lee said, adding that the manpower issue had to be considered when fully operational.

But he said staffing would be adequate to meet demand in the initial stage when the hospital was set to open.

Children’s hospital to open with half its beds due to manpower shortage

As of May 31 this year, the hospital had hired 83 doctors, 227 nurses and 81 allied health professionals. According to a Legco paper submitted by the authority, the hospital expected to need 108 doctors, 395 nurses and 89 allied health professionals during the initial stage of service, or the period between the fourth quarter this year and second quarter next year.

Lee said hiring for other specialties such as paediatric surgery and cardiology was ongoing.

There is a chronic shortage of manpower in public hospitals, with about 300 doctors needed.

The authority, which operates 43 hospitals and institutions, takes care of about 90 per cent of the city’s inpatients while employing just 40 per cent of medical practitioners. Adding to staff shortages was the brain drain of experienced doctors moving to the more lucrative private sector.

The turnover rate for public doctors hit a 10-year high of 5.7 per cent last year, with paediatric departments among the worst hit.

Lee added there was an overall shortage of anaesthesiologists, so the hospital would have to accommodate accordingly when planning surgical services.

He said the hospital would first provide specialist outpatient services in paediatric oncology and paediatric nephrology when it opened.

Inpatient and day services would be introduced in the first quarter next year, when around 110 beds for oncology, nephrology and paediatric intensive care unit would be offered.

Other clinical services, such as the neonatal intensive care unit and paediatric surgery, would be planned for the second half next year.

The hospital will also introduce the city’s first hydrotherapy pool with adjustable depth. With a depth ranging from zero to 1.7 metres, the pool allows children of different heights to receive hydrotherapy.