Before the establishment of the authority, all health and medical issues were under the management of the Medical and Health Department. In 1990, a new health administration system was introduced. The department became the and in 1991, the management of all the public hospitals was passed to a new statutory body, the Hospital Authority, which was established in 1990 under the Hospital Authority Ordinance. In 2003, the General Outpatient Clinics of Department of Health were transferred to the Authority.
2008 milk contamination
On the day when a Hong Kong girl was diagnosed as the territory's first victim of the 2008 baby milk scandal, anxious parents were frustrated to discover that doctors at the special unit set up at the were taking the day off. Deputy Director of Health Gloria Tam said that it was "not something so urgent that it needs to be dealt with in 24 hours... They can go during office hours tomorrow". Medical sector legislator Leung Ka-lau said the lack of daily cover during the crisis was "insensitive". While the first victim left hospital after successful treatment one day later, two more children were admitted to hospital on 22 September; the Hospital Authority was reportedly overwhelmed when over 100 parents demanding check-ups for their children at Princess Margaret amids confusion about referrals and registration procedures, causing Secretary for Food and Health, York Chow to grovel for having underestimated the problem. Chow pledged 18 additional facilities around Hong Kong would be operational the next day.