Plans to build a hospital in Kai Tak and expand North District and Princess Margaret hospitals for a total cost of HK$39.6 billion have been given the go-ahead by a Legislative Council subcommittee.
However, lawmakers are worried that the new and expanded hospitals won't result in a shortening of the queues for hospital services as long as the problem of manpower shortage is still not addressed.
The public works subcommittee passed the plan to construct an acute hospital in the Kai Tak development area and build a walkway connecting the amenity area under Kwun Tong bypass with the hospital.
The plan also includes expanding North District Hospital in Sheung Shui and Lai King Building in Princess Margaret Hospital in Lai Chi Kok. After being passed by the subcommittee, it now awaits final approval from the finance committee.
The plan is part of the government's first 10-year hospital development plan announced in 2016, which covers the redevelopment and expansion of 11 hospitals and the construction of an acute hospital, three community health centers and one supporting services center.
More than 6,000 additional bed spaces are estimated to be provided under the 10-year development plan.
The Liberal Party's Tommy Cheung Yu-yan said due to the current shortage of medical workers in Hong Kong, he is concerned about whether there will be sufficient manpower to cope with the increasing number of hospital beds.
"From my understanding, there are hospital beds and floors that have yet to open at North Lantau Hospital due to insufficient manpower," Cheung said.
Undersecretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi said it was not practical to open up all beds in the initial stages of a new hospital's opening.
"So the government will open up a certain number of beds each year, based on the Hospital Authority's plan, and allocate manpower to deal with it," he said.
Chui added that the government has been working on increasing the number of medical workers available to keep up with local demand.
"The existing patient waiting time is very long - 2 hours on average," DAB lawmaker Vincent Cheng Wing-shun said.
He questioned whether the new acute hospital is capable of shortening the current long patient waiting times.
Ho Hiu-fai, Queen Elizabeth Hospital's chief of service for accident and emergency, said the new hospital aims to provide accident and emergency services for 90 percent of its patients within 30 minutes.
Authority chairman Henry Fan Hung-ling said the aging population will lead to a heavy burden on the public health-care system. He added that hospitals should further expand their day-time services and reduce unnecessary hospitalizations to tackle increasing demand.
He mentioned as an example that many hospitals conduct chemotherapy for cancer patients during the day, meaning they do not need to be hospitalized overnight.