Opportunity of a Lifetime
Hong Kong Children’s Hospital taps into experience of two highly qualified CUHK alumni to set up paediatric surgery department.
When two alumni of The CUHK’s Faculty of Medicine were asked to be part of the Hong Kong Children’s Hospital (HKCH), they did not hesitate. After all, they had the qualifications and expertise to make the new hospital a centre of excellence for the care of children.
Dr. Michael LEUNG had worked for Queen Elizabeth Hospital for nearly three decades and was a Consultant Paediatric Surgeon and Division Head of Paediatric Surgery until his appointment as HKCH’s Chief of Service of the Department of Surgery.
Dr. Peter TAM is currently a consultant in paediatric surgery of both Prince of Wales Hospital (PWH) and HKCH. He also heads PWH’s Division of Paediatric Surgery & Paediatric Urology. He sits on the Board of Paediatric Surgery and is the Chief Examiner.
HKCH not just a hospital-based project
Given their vast experiences in paediatric surgery, they were invited to participate in workgroups - years before HKCH opened for service in December 2018 - on how to come up with solutions to merge different paediatric surgical centres and to enhance quality care in the field of paediatric surgery.
“It is not just a hospital-based project,” says Dr. LEUNG, who had participated in the commissioning programme on surgical services in HKCH since 2012. “It is the translocation of paediatric surgery services in Hong Kong. We began designing for the operating theatre, gave advice on the setting up of the wards as well as on the purchasing of equipment like the minimally invasive surgical machines. We needed to centralise complex surgical services like neonatal surgery and oncological surgery to HKCH.”
Dr. LEUNG also travelled overseas to study how children's hospitals operated, including a visit to the top-ranking American facility, the Boston Children’s Hospital.
Merging different paediatric centres poses immense challenges
Dr. TAM, who sat in the sub-specialty workgroup of paediatric surgery during the commissioning period, says they had to find ways to smoothly merge the existing paediatric centres. “It was a very complicated process, involving many departments from different hospitals. How to work with people from another centre remains a challenge for me.”
Prior to the Hong Kong Children’s Hospital, there have been three paediatric surgical centres at PWH, Queen Mary Hospital (QMH) and Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). They have worked independently, had their own protocols and their own teams. “So you can
imagine the challenges we all faced,” he explains. “We are from different centres and obviously, people do things differently and have different opinions.”
After meticulous planning and numerous discussions among the paediatric surgical centres on manpower deployment, cases allocation and patient transfer arrangements, the centre at Queen Elizabeth Hospital completed its move to HKCH in July 2019.
Watching HKCH develop likened to watching baby being born
The PWH centre still functions but its paediatric surgeons are also now on the payroll of HKCH, Dr. TAM explains. “My role is to ensure the proper allocation of manpower in order to provide services to HKCH while maintaining services in PWH.”
His other major role in HKCH is to provide training and services in the sub-specialty areas. “I have strong clinical and research interests in paediatric urology, minimally invasive surgery and neonatal surgery.”
The merging of different paediatric centres also proved challenging for Dr. LEUNG. “I have been working in QEH for 28 years so I know all my colleagues in the different departments quite well. In this current position, I had to ‘reboot’ and collaborate with new colleagues for my clinical and administrative duties,” he says. “Fortunately, we got tremendous support from colleagues in the different paediatric surgical centres.”
He describes watching HKCH materialise over the years as “watching a baby, since its conception, being born for the first time”.
A lifetime opportunity to leave behind a legacy
He says since HKCH is still in its infant stage, they are focusing on clinical services for now. “Clinical service is the most important area for us right now. After that, we will gradually focus on other areas like training and research in the field of paediatric surgery. And, we can only do this in collaboration with other departments in this hospital as well as stakeholders outside the hospital such as other public doctors, the government and patient groups.”
As for Dr. TAM, he hopes to see a well-defined sub-specialisation development among paediatric surgeons in HKCH. He says clinical outcomes would continue to improve only when paediatric surgeons develop their own sub-specialty interests.
“Nowadays, because of the advance in medical technology and concepts and with surgical procedures getting more complicated, outcomes won’t be that good if you can’t focus on one area. In the old days, it was different. Surgeons could operate on the brain, the toe, the uterus, almost everything. But these days, no!”
He expressed the hope that more time and effort will be spent on elective surgery. “We’ll try to identify doctors who can sub-specialise in certain areas so that they can focus on that particular area and accumulate the experience over time.”
Despite the challenges, both Dr. LEUNG and Dr. TAM say working with other healthcare professionals towards building up HKCH is a lifetime opportunity for them…something they are very proud of.
早在香港兒童醫院在2018 年12 月正式啟用前， 擁有豐富小兒外科專科經驗的梁偉業醫生和譚煜謙醫生便已投入參與，商討如何將香港不同醫院的小兒外科中心合併，提高醫療服務質素。