Sunday, 17 May 2015

Gov't keen to boost health services

Financial Secretary John Tsang

Thanks to the dedication, commitment and expertise of our healthcare professionals, Hong Kong is blessed with one of the most efficient, one of the most trusted, public hospital services in the world.


And you don't have to take my word on that. According to a 2013 Bloomberg study, Hong Kong's healthcare system was rated the most efficient among 48 countries and economies, ahead of in our region Singapore (second), Japan (third) and Australia (seventh).


But - there is always a "but" isn't there? And I am sure you are all well acquainted with this "but". Like many economies today, Hong Kong faces the challenges of an ageing population and, at the same time, heightened expectations.


Healthcare investment

With that in mind, we continue to strengthen our investment in the public healthcare system. We are continuing to enhance the quality and capacity of affordable healthcare for the benefit of us all, now and in future.


I have the numbers to back that up. For the 2015-16 financial year, the Government's recurrent subvention to the Hospital Authority amounts to some $50 billion as John has mentioned earlier, up about 50% over just five years ago.


In addition, we are supporting a variety of Hospital Authority capital works projects to help meet the community's long-term healthcare needs. Capital expenditure for the projects under construction, or soon to be, is estimated at over $80 billion, contributing to an increase of up to 2,800 beds.


The projects include Phase 1 of an acute general hospital in the Kai Tak development area, along with the Tin Shui Wai Hospital and the Hong Kong Children's Hospital. There are also many other enhancement projects that will increase the capacity as well as the capability of our existing institutions.


Public-private partnership

Beyond extending our physical capacity, we need to look at new service delivery models, especially to take advantage of our unique dual-track public and private healthcare sectors. This will enable us to make better use of private practitioners. They can help relieve the pressure of our public hospitals and create a better working environment for healthcare professionals.


Our public hospitals can then focus on serving as the cornerstone of Hong Kong's healthcare system - the safety net for us all. And a pretty solid one at that. And with that in mind, we are setting up a $10 billion fund for the Hospital Authority to make use of the investment returns for public-private partnership initiatives. These include the extension of the General Outpatient Clinic Public-Private Partnership Programme to all districts, in phases.


Equally important, we need to ensure an adequate supply of quality healthcare professionals for meeting current and future needs. In order to do that, we are undertaking a strategic review on healthcare manpower planning and professional development and it is expected to be completed this year.


We have been exploring with the Hong Kong Medical Council ways to facilitate qualified overseas trained doctors to practice in Hong Kong, including increasing the frequency of our licensing examination and introducing more flexibility in the internship arrangement for overseas trained doctors.


We are also considering increasing the number of publicly-funded degree places in medicine, dentistry and other health disciplines in the next funding cycle for our universities.


So, ladies and gentlemen, we are working hard to prepare ourselves to meet the challenge of the future and I look forward to hearing the result of your discussion today.


Finally it remains only for me to extend my congratulations to the Hospital Authority on organising yet another successful Convention. I wish you all a rewarding two days. And the best of health in the coming year.


Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the Hospital Authority Convention 2015 opening ceremony.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

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