Following is the speech (English only) by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, at the Signing Ceremony of the MOU between Centre for Health Protection (CHP) and Health Protection Agency (HPA) of England and Wales today (May 7):
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great privilege and pleasure to be here today to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) of England and Wales. I would like to extend a very warm welcome to our overseas experts led by Professor Troop of HPA.
The establishment of a CHP in Hong Kong has been high on the SAR Government's agenda. The Chief Executive first alluded to this initiative a year ago. It was also a major recommendation by the SARS Expert Committee chaired by two renowned international healthcare experts - Sir Cyril Chantler and Professor Sian Griffiths.
Over the past six months, we have been pressing ahead with this all-important initiative. CHP has moved from concept to reality in a matter of months. We have drawn up an organisational structure with six functional branches and a phased implementation approach for the new agency. Dr P Y Leung was appointed as its controller since April 1. He is now in the driving seat and two major branches namely, surveillance and epidemiology branch as well as infection control branch are well in place. All six functional branches are expected to be fully developed by 2005.
What is so unique about CHP? If nothing else, the SARS epidemic last spring has underlined the need to strengthen inter-agency collaborations in our public health system. The institutional arrangements for the CHP were therefore designed on the basis of a collaborative approach to health protection.
In the domestic setting, the CHP will thrive on a multi-skilled workforce with talents drawn from a range of departments and agencies within and outside the Administration. Health protection programmes bringing together experts from different sectors and professions will be set up to tackle identified health hazards to our community.
What will be the next milestones? CDIS (Communicable Disease Information System) is the next icon. We shall seek funds to build a common information technology platform to facilitate information sharing on communicable disease surveillance between the CHP, the Hospital Authority and eventually with private hospitals and practitioners and non-healthcare institutions.
On the international front, the CHP will build on the network that the Department of Health has developed with international and overseas health agencies over the years. It will seek to reach MOUs with overseas health agencies where there is a mutual commitment to develop more substantive collaborative arrangements.
The MOU that Professor Troop and Dr Leung are going to sign in this historic moment is the maiden one entered into by the CHP. Special thanks go to Professor Troop for making a special trip to Hong Kong to make possible this meaningful event. It will set the stage for stronger linkages between the health protection agencies in Hong Kong, England and Wales, including through the launching of collaborative projects on training, attachment programmes, contingency planning, research and development, etc. I would leave it to Dr P Y Lam to say a bit more about these projects in a minute.
Today's signing ceremony is an epoch-making event in the public health history of Hong Kong. The execution of the MOU marks the beginning of an equally important process of implementation. In that process, we will need to continue to draw on your counsel and contributions. I am grateful for the support from Legislative Council Members, healthcare professionals, academics and other community leaders. Their invaluable advice has helped to shape today's CHP. I must also express my gratitude to the Hong Kong Jockey Club for their donation of $500 million to support establishment of CHP.
With all your unabated support, I am confident the CHP and the HPA of England and Wales will go from strength to strength in fostering closer partnerships in the interest of public health. Thank you.
Ends/Friday, May 7, 2004