LCQ3: The North Lantau Hospital

     Following is a question by the Hon Tam Yiu-chung and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):


     Recently, some media cited an internal paper of the Hospital Authority (HA), which pointed out that due to shortage of healthcare manpower, the North Lantau Hospital (NLH) to be completed towards the end of next year would be manned by only 87 healthcare personnel in 2012-2013, and thus NLH could only provide limited services during its initial operation stage, e.g. the Accident and Emergency Department could only operate eight hours a day, and NLH would not have sufficient manpower to provide full-fledged services until 2016-2017.  As Tung Chung is relatively remote and substantially farther away from other hospitals in the New Territories West Cluster, at the time when the first batch of residents started moving into Tung Chung New Town in 1997, they already requested the authorities to set up a hospital in Tung Chung district.  However, the soon-to-be-completed NLH will not be able to provide adequate healthcare services to meet the needs of the residents in Tung Chung and its vicinity as well as the travellers in the airport area before 2016-2017.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether it knows:

(a) HA's healthcare manpower arrangements for NLH when it commences operation towards the end of next year, including the respective numbers of general practitioners, specialists and nurses, as well as the services to be provided; the details regarding the healthcare services to be provided in NLH in phases, including the types of healthcare services to be provided in various phases, their service hours, and the respective target numbers of clients; and

(b) if HA has conducted any study to strive for an increase in NLH's healthcare manpower on the premise that the healthcare manpower in other hospitals will not be affected, so that when NLH commences operation towards the end of next year, its healthcare services will not fail to meet the needs of Tung Chung, the airport and its vicinity due to shortage of healthcare manpower; and if HA has conducted such a study, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     In accordance with general planning standard, an acute hospital will be planned for a district when the population of the district reaches 200 000.  Apart from population growth, we also take into account the planning of other infrastructures and the demand for medical services arising from all economic activities in a district.  According to the projections of population distribution published by the Planning Department, the population of the North Lantau New Town is estimated to reach about 100 000 in 2019.  To cope with the long term development and population growth of the North Lantau New Town and the Lantau area, and considering that the Hong Kong International Airport and some major tourist facilities are situated in North Lantau, and given the distance and travelling time from the North Lantau New Town to other acute hospitals, we have decided to develop a new hospital in North Lantau before the population in the district reaches the relevant level under the general planning standard.

     Under the existing cluster arrangement of the Hospital Authority (HA), the North Lantau Hospital (NLH) will be managed by the Kowloon West Cluster of HA.  Hospitals under the Kowloon West Cluster, leading by the Princess Margaret Hospital, will provide support to the services of NLH.  My reply to various parts of the question is as follows.

(a) The North Lantau Hospital (NLH) project, approved by the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council in January 2010, is currently in good progress.  It is anticipated that the construction work will be completed at the end of 2012.  The Kowloon West Cluster of HA has set up a dedicated office to actively prepare and formulate the timeline for the commissioning of various services and facilities of NLH as well as the associated manpower arrangement and procurement of medical equipment.

     According to the current plan, HA will take over the new hospital building by the end of 2012 and immediately carry out preparatory work for commissioning of the hospital, including system testing for the building, detection of work defects as well as installation and test run of equipment, etc.  Based on past experience in commissioning new hospitals, such work will normally take six to nine months to complete.  Meanwhile, HA will also set up a team of staff for NLH and provide relevant training to the staff.

     Like other newly commissioned public hospitals, services of NLH will be commissioned by phases to facilitate healthcare staff to settle in the new working environment.  The hospital will increase its services gradually to ensure smooth operation of and provision of quality service by the hospital.  HA anticipates that NLH will commence operation by phases starting from the third quarter of 2013 and provide 24-hour accident and emergency service and inpatient service in early 2014.  Upon full commissioning, NLH will have around 160 beds, an accident and emergency department, as well as diagnostic and treatment facilities.  Ambulatory care services including specialist out-patient clinics, primary care clinics, a day rehabilitation centre, an ambulatory surgery/day procedure centre and community care services will also be provided by the hospital.  On manpower, HA anticipates that more than 80 staff will be employed by the end of 2012 to implement the preparatory work for the commissioning of NLH.  It is estimated that some 400 additional staff including over 100 doctors and nurses will be recruited in 2013-14.  It is anticipated that upon its full operation, NLH will need a total of about 650 staff, including some 60 doctors, 170 nurses and 80 allied health professionals.

     When planning the services of NLH, HA will continue to maintain close communication with the Islands District Council, local residents and community organisations of Lantau Island and Tung Chung.  Thorough considerations will be given to the views of the residents on the hospital's operation and healthcare needs of the community, with a view to providing appropriate hospital services to the North Lantau New Town.

(b) In light of the shortage of healthcare manpower in the public healthcare system over the past few years, HA has allocated additional resources to implement a series of measures to strengthen the recruitment of healthcare manpower and supporting staff, improve the working environment and promotion prospects, provide additional allowance and enhance professional training etc, with a view to improving staff retention and boosting staff morale.  To increase doctor manpower, HA has extended the pilot scheme for employment of part-time doctors in the Obstetric and Gynaecological specialty to all other specialties, and at the same time carry out the recruitment of non-local doctors with limited registration.  When planning for the commissioning of NLH, HA will deploy its internal resources flexibly to ensure that the hospital has adequate healthcare manpower to launch its services.

Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Issued at HKT 17:07