Press Release



Speech by SHW at LegCo Panel on Health Services meeting


The following is the speaking note by the Secretary for Health and Welfare, Dr E K Yeoh, at the LegCo Panel on Health Services meeting today (Thursday) :


Last week, the Chief Executive Mr. Tung Chee Hwa promulgated his third policy address. As a follow-up, I am glad to have today's opportunity to explain to you our plans for health care services next year.

Review of Progress 1999-2000

2. We have achieved good progress in delivering the 44 undertakings made in previous years, covering disease and food surveillance, health promotion efforts, and improvements to the curative services. Of these 44 undertakings, we have completed action on 17 of them, and remain on schedule to deliver 26 others. We are behind schedule on only one item and we are confident that we will catch up shortly.

3. In summary, our major achievements in the past year included -

* Completion of the Consultancy Study on the Hong Kong Health Care System.

* Enactment of the Chinese Medicine Ordinance.

* Commissioning of 754 additional public hospital beds.

* Commencement of the "Healthy Living into the 21st Century" Campaign.

Work Plan for the Coming Year

Chinese Medicine

4. For the coming year, I would like to start with our future work on Chinese medicine. With the enactment of the Chinese Medicine Ordinance in July 1999, the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong was established in September. The immediate task of the Council is to prepare the relevant subsidiary legislation. We are working on the Regulations related to the registration of practitioners to be submitted to the Legislative Council and hope to commence the registration process in the year 2000. Controls over the trading and manufacture of Chinese medicines will be introduced by phases, starting from 2000. In the coming year, we shall examine how best we can assist in the development of international standards for Chinese medicines.

Public Health

5. The Department of Health will continue its good work on disease surveillance and prevention. Construction of the new Public Health Laboratory in Shek Kip Mei, scheduled for opening in 2002, is in good progress. Planning for the establishment of a Public Health Information System, which will capture the community health status and disease patterns, has started. Continuous efforts will be made by the department to enhance its surveillance and evaluation capacity.

6. The Healthy Living Campaign will continue in earnest. According to recent surveys, the Campaign has increased public awareness of the importance of public, personal and food hygiene. We shall build on this, and in the coming year, continue to organize health education and promotion programmes, focusing on the benefits of healthy life styles, self-care, proper hygiene practices and environmental improvements. We look forward to the community's support and assistance in making Hong Kong a healthier place to live in.

Curative Services

7. We aim to provide a total of 853 additional public hospital beds in 1999-2000. We have already provided 158 additional public hospital beds since April 1999 and remain on target to provide the remainder before the end of next March. In the coming financial year, i.e. 2000-2001, we shall provide another 460 public hospital beds. By then, the total number of beds in the public hospital system will rise to around 29000. The construction of Tseung Kwan O Hospital has been completed and the Hospital will commence operation in early 2000. Planning for the redevelopment of Pok Oi Hospital and the establishment of a Radiotherapy Center at Princess Margaret Hospital is in good progress.

8. The Hospital Authority will continue to examine how best to reorganize and rationalize its services on a cluster basis. For example, it plans to complete the relocation of the inpatient obstetric service from Tsan Yuk Hospital to Queen Mary Hospital by 2001 and the rationalization of the services provided at Tang Shiu Kin Hospital, Ruttonjee Hospital and Tang Chi Ngong Specialist Clinic by 2003. These efforts will not only bring improved management efficiency, but also better convenience to the patients.

9. The HA will take steps in the coming year to reduce the average queuing and waiting time for out-patient specialist services. These will include changes to the mode of operation and re-deployment of resources. The Authority will consider how to enhance its community care service to look after the discharged patients and to reduce re-admission. The continuous development of day care, ambulatory and community care services will help reduce hospital admission and length of stay. The search for new and innovative ways to provide cost-effective care is a continuous effort. Improved productivity can release valuable resources to fund new or improved services for the benefit of patients.

Health Care Review

10. Finally, I want to say a few words on the Health Care Review. The Consultancy Report prepared by the Harvard team was released for public consultation in April this year. So far, we have received a total of 2100 submissions. We are now studying and analyzing these submissions. We aim to issue a consultation document, early next year, to seek public support for our proposed way forward.

11. According to the submissions received, there is an overwhelming support for introducing reforms to our current health care system, including financing reforms, to ensure the long term sustainability of the system.

12. There is a good measure of public support for enhancing the role and effectiveness of primary health care, improving the integration of services between the public and private sectors and between the primary and specialists services, imposing tighter control on the standard of medical care and increasing the transparency of the complaint mechanisms. On financing reforms, views are varied. We will carefully consider these views when proposing the way forward.

End/Thursday, October 14, 1999