Public hospitals will get an additional 5000 beds and 90 operating theatres in the next 10 years as part of a HK$200 billion bundle of development projects to cope with a rapidly ageing population, said Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. A government source said increased demand can be met by redeveloping or expanding the nine public hospitals, with some construction projects already underway. “The projection of 5000 beds will increase the current capacity of 27,000 by 18 per cent,” said the source. “The target is set based on the needs of the population, and all the projects have already been planned by the Hospital Authority to deliver.” They include the 468-bed Children’s Hospital, a two-phase project in Kai Tak Hospital with a total of 2400 beds, as well as redevelopment projects at Tuen Mun Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital. An additional 90 operating theatres will be added to the current 230, bringing capacity up by 41 per cent. And sessions of day care clinic will be increased by 2.8 million in ten years, up by 40 per cent. In order to address the understaffing crisis in public hospitals, the government will also increase the number of medical graduates from 250 before 2014 to 420 this year. In his policy address on Wednesday, the chief executive announced that that number will be further increased by 50 next year. “We believe the supply of doctors will be sufficient to match the increase in hospital capacity,” said the government source. Lawmaker for the medical sector Dr Leung Ka-lau said the increase in service capacity would not solve the prolonged waiting time problem for patients if the additional service was not delivered in the district with the most rapidly ageing residents. “The government is developing new towns in the New Territories such as Tin Shui Wai, but the new Kai Tak hospital is in central Kowloon. How do you expect the waiting times in New Territories hospitals to be shortened?” Leung asked. It was estimated the hospital construction projects would cost $200 billion, with the Hospital Authority applying for the sum for each project in the Legislative Council. Beyond the question of whether it could be delayed at that stage, Dr Chan Pui-yin, president of Public Doctors’ Association, expressed doubts that the government would have the financial resources to see through all the projects. He warned it risked facing the public’s ire in the coming years. Funding public hospitals accounts for around 15 to 17 per cent of annual government spending. “If the government is really committed to the project, it means the expenditure on health care would (need to) account for a much larger proportion of its expenditure,” he said. On the battle against superbugs, Leung noted that antimicrobial resistance posed a major threat to global public health, and that the government will form a steering committee to formulate precautionary measures and to study whether there was a need to regulate the use of antibiotics in humans and animals bred for food.