Officials charged with making Hong Kong’s first Chinese medicine hospital a reality have said it would not just be a place to treat people, but “a flagship institution” for the sector.
Dr Cheung Wai-lun, project director of the Food and Health Bureau’s Chinese Medicine Hospital Project Office, said as well as providing a clinical service, the hospital would also be a training ground for local practitioners and a development centre.
Further details of the government-funded hospital, which is to be situated at Pak Shing Kok in Tseung Kwan O, were revealed on Thursday, a day after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced her intention to incorporate Chinese medicine into the city’s health care system.
A member of the government’s primary health care development committee said establishment of a hospital would facilitate the professional development of Chinese medicine.
The 400-bed hospital, which is expected to open in late 2024, would be seen as the “flagship Chinese medicine institution”, while involving collaboration with western medicine.
“It is not purely a hospital which provides service, but one which leads the development of Chinese medicine sector in Hong Kong,” said Cheung, during a press briefing on Thursday.
Presently, local universities send their students to Chinese medicine hospitals in mainland China for clinical training, Cheung said.
“We also don’t have a sophisticated system for clinical training for Chinese medicine practitioners who have already graduated,” he added.
With the inclusion of a clinical trial and research centre, it is also hoped the hospital will facilitate medical and drug development in Hong Kong.
The hospital, built by the government and operated by a non-profit-making organisation, would offer outpatient and inpatient services subsidised by the government, and those financed wholly by patients.
The government is expected to begin the tendering procedures for selecting an operator in the second half of next year. According to an initial plan, the operator would have to provide service for 10 to 15 years for each contract.
But, details of how many subsidised quotas, as well as how much the government would spend on building and subsidising the hospital, and how many practitioners would be needed, remain unknown until a more detailed plan has been created.
But, Cheung believes the hospital would need about 300 nurses.
At the moment, about 80 students graduate in Chinese medicine from the three local universities that offer the training. In addition, about 200 people return to Hong Kong for practice after studying outside the city, and together with more than 9,000 registered practitioners already here, Cheung said there should be no shortage of practitioners.
Cheung said what was needed now was the provision of further postgraduate training for those already qualified, to enable them to help support the future development of the sector.
Dr Lam Ching-choi, a member of the government’s steering committee on primary health care development, said operating a hospital, which involves collaboration with western medicine, would help facilitate the professional development of Chinese medicine.
“[Chinese medicine] has to develop different protocols and do well in its system, or else it would be difficult to work with western medicine,” said Lam, adding that a practitioner working in a hospital would have better prospects, as there would be a career path to follow.
While Chinese medicine places more emphasis on disease prevention, Lam said giving the discipline a bigger role in primary care would help in public health management.