The opening of a maternity ward at the first public hospital in Tseung Kwan O is in danger of repeated delays as a result of a personnel shortage. This is a problem facing all public hospitals in Hong Kong as more doctors and nurses are leaving for private clinics in search of higher pay and less stressful work. The relevant authorities should consider speeding up the introduction of qualified professionals from overseas markets as a stopgap measure to ease the shortage of manpower at public hospital maternity wards in addition to training more locals for the jobs.
Currently, Tseung Kwan O Hospital does not have a child delivery service, although the original plan was to provide 80 beds for pregnant women out of a total of more than 400. Those 80 beds are now occupied by other patients. This is understandable because there was little need for them when the hospital opened in 1999.
Tseung Kwan O is a newly-developed residential district where the population has now exceeded 400,000. Government statistics show that more than 2,000 babies were born into households in the district and neighboring Sai Kung in 2010. And all of them were delivered at hospitals in other districts because the nearest one does not have either the facilities or the personnel to serve their needs. As more apartment buildings are expected to be built in the district in the next few years, many young people will no doubt move there to form their own families. The government estimates that local demand for child delivery services at local hospitals will be close to 3,000 in the 2013-14 fiscal year alone.
The government has slapped quotas on entries for pregnant women from the mainland as a way of easing the pressure on public hospitals, but a more proactive approach would be to open the door to professionals from outside Hong Kong to come and work here on short-term permits.
This is an English translation of excerpts from a Sing Tao Daily editorial published on June 8.
(HK Edition 06/09/2011 page3)