LCQ18: Public healthcare services for Wong Tai sin district

     Following is a question by the Hon Wu Chi-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (April 20):


     According to the arrangement made by the Fire Services Department (FSD) and the Hospital Authority (HA), the territory is divided into 20 catchment areas, and the ambulances under FSD will take patients to the designated hospitals or clinics within the catchment areas where they are located.  However, patients in critical conditions will be taken to the nearest hospital.  On the other hand, some residents of the Wong Tai Sin (WTS) district have complained to me that as there is no acute hospital in the district, and Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital (OLMH) in the district provides out-patient services only up to 10pm, when chronically ill patients who regularly attend follow-up consultations at OLMH are in need of medical care late at night, such patients have no choice but to call an ambulance to take them to Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) or other acute hospitals outside the district for treatment.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) among the patients taken to hospital by the ambulance in each of the past three years, of the number and percentage of those who died in transit, with a breakdown by District Council district in which such patients boarded the ambulance; whether it has assessed, among those cases in which the patients died in transit to hospital, the percentage of those in which the patients died as a result of not having arrived at the accident and emergency (A&E) departments in time to be saved (set out in a table);

(2) whether it knows, among the patients taken to hospital by the ambulance mentioned in item (1), (i) the respective numbers and percentages of those patients whose conditions were categorised as critical, emergency, urgent, semi-urgent and non-urgent upon their arrival at the A&E departments, as well as (ii) the number of those who regularly attended follow-up consultations at OLMH (set out in a table);

(3) in each of the past three years, (i) of the total number of patients who boarded the ambulance in the WTS district, and (ii) among such patients, the respective numbers and percentages of those who were taken to United Christian Hospital, QEH, Kwong Wah Hospital and other hospitals (set out in a table);

(4) of the respective average time taken (i) from FSD's receipt of the emergency calls concerning the patients mentioned in item (3) to the arrival of the ambulance at the scene, and (ii) from such patients' boarding the ambulance at the scene to their arrival at the A&E departments;

(5) as I have learnt that OLMH had provided 24-hour out-patient services before it was incorporated into HA's structure, and some residents of the WTS district have proposed that such services be resumed at OLMH, whether the authorities have assessed the additional resources required for implementing this proposal, and whether they will consider this proposal so that the chronically ill patients in the district can go to OLMH when they are in need of medical care late at night; if not, of the reasons for that; and

(6) how the services to be provided by OLMH after its redevelopment compare with those currently provided by it; of the expected time that the Government will submit to this Council the funding proposal for the redevelopment of OLMH?



     My reply to the various parts of the question raised by the Hon Wu Chi-wai relating to the arrangements for conveying patients to hospitals by ambulance is as follows:

(1) The Fire Services Department (FSD) is responsible for providing emergency ambulance service to those in need.  If ambulance personnel find that the patients are obviously dead at the scene of the incident, the body will be handed over to police officers on site to handle.  Except those obviously dead patients mentioned above, ambulance personnel will convey the patients to hospitals for treatment.  Resuscitation will continue during the journey to the hospitals without assessing whether the patients are alive or not under normal circumstances.  Hence, FSD does not have information on the number of patients who died in an ambulance on the way to the hospitals.

(2) The Hospital Authority (HA) does not maintain information of the triage categories of patients conveyed to the accident and emergency (A&E) departments of hospitals by ambulance.  Nor does HA keep records of the number of such patients who are required to attend regular follow-up consultations at Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital (OLMH).

     Annex 1 sets out the breakdown of A&E attendances of HA's hospitals by triage categories in the past three years.

(3) Annex 2 sets out the statistics on conveyance of patients in Wong Tai Sin District to hospitals in response to emergency ambulance calls received by FSD in the past three years.

(4) Annex 3 sets out the average ambulance arrival time in response to emergency ambulance calls in Wong Tai Sin District in the past three years.  FSD does not have a breakdown of the relevant arrival time by hospital.

(5) Resident doctors of OLMH did provide consultation outside normal out-patient service hours many years ago.  However, in 2002, OLMH, after considering the fact that resident doctors were not able to attend to the evening consultation service in addition to their normal duties, had stopped providing such service since November 29 of the same year.

     As general out-patient clinics (GOPCs) are not intended for the provision of emergency services, patients with severe and acute symptoms should go to the A&E departments of hospitals where the necessary staffing, equipment and ancillary facilities are in place to provide appropriate treatment and comprehensive care.  The provision of 24-hour out-patient services will create greater pressure on healthcare manpower.  Considering the need to use GOPC resources cost-effectively, HA has no plan to provide 24-hour out-patient services at this stage.  

(6) HA attaches importance to catering for the demand of Wong Tai Sin residents for healthcare services, and has drawn up a long-term blueprint to improve the healthcare services in Wong Tai Sin district.  Having regard to the ageing population of the district, HA will provide a full range of healthcare services for residents in Wong Tai Sin through a network of hospitals, comprising the new acute general hospital in the Kai Tak Development Area and the existing OLMH, Hong Kong Buddhist Hospital and Wong Tai Sin Hospital.  

     After evaluating and assessing the long-term development directions of OLMH, HA has affirmed that OLMH should take the role of a non-acute hospital focusing on the provision of ambulatory healthcare services.  OLMH has to be redeveloped to strengthen the ambulatory healthcare facilities to meet the needs of people in the district.  HA is preparing the details of the OLMH redevelopment project with a view to enhancing the services provided for the residents as early as possible.

     The preliminary proposals for the OLMH redevelopment project include the redevelopment of the East and North Wings into a new block and the refurbishment of the Outpatient Department Building to improve old hospital facilities which have been in use for a long time and to enhance existing services.  The redeveloped OLMH will provide 252 in-patient and day beds in total and four operating theatres in the day surgery centre which meet the present-day standards. The number of out-patient consultation rooms will also be increased from 33 to 55.  There will be in-patient and ambulatory healthcare service covering the main specialty areas.  OLMH will continue to offer diagnostic and ancillary services such as diagnostic radiography, computed tomography scanning, ultrasound scanning, cardiac diagnostic and care centre, endoscopic service, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, etc.

     HA is carrying out the preliminary preparatory work, including ground investigation, geotechnical assessment and traffic impact assessment, for the redevelopment of OLMH with a view to finalising the project details.  After completing the relevant planning work, we will seek funding approval from the Legislative Council in due course according to the established procedures so as to commence the redevelopment works as early as possible.  

Ends/Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Issued at HKT 19:51