Following is the speech (English only) by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, at the Hospital Authority Convention 2004 today (May 9):
Dr Leong, Dr Ho, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be officiating at the 2004 Hospital Authority Convention.
The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2003 was a crisis not only for the health sector but for the entire community. The price we paid was dear, but we are determined to make the best of the lessons identified to help steer the changes that our health care system needs. The challenge for Hong Kong, as for many other places in the world, is how to ensure that our health care system continues to provide accessible, quality, equitable and affordable health care services and be sustainable in face of the threat from emerging new infectious diseases and increasing prevalence of chronic diseases. Our ageing population, the advancement of medical technology and changing societal needs and expectation have added complex dimensions and compounded the challenge.
I believe Hong Kong is now, in the post-SARS era, better placed for change than ever. We have made institutional changes, including the establishment of the Centre for Health Protection, to enable centralised, proactive and responsive discharge of health protection functions with regard to not only communicable disease, but also to other areas of public health, such as food safety and hygiene and non-communicable diseases. We have also quickened the pace of changing the mode of delivery of health care services, with greater emphasis placed on providing care in the community setting. The Visiting Medical Officer Scheme for residential care homes for the elderly, begun during the SARS outbreak and given new impetus afterwards, is an example of such change. Most important of all, there is now a wider realisation that health is also an individual, not only governmental, responsibility. It is now more popularly recognised that the promise of good health cannot be achieved without the individual's personal actions and the adoption of health-promoting behaviours and lifestyles. All these changes have made us more ready to move from a health care system that puts its emphasis on expensive curative care to a sustainable one that emphasises preventive and primary medical care and is community-focused and patient-centred.
Achieving long-term sustainability for our health care system is not an end in itself but a means for us to ensure that we can pursue continuous improvement in the quality of medical care in a responsive and financially sound manner so that we would not leave behind a heavy burden for future generations. The Government will build on its work in ensuring sustainability of our health care financing. We have restructured the fees for our public health facilities and have just completed a series of studies to develop the model for healthcare financing option, the health protection account. In the context of health care delivery, we will continue to count on the Hospital Authority and the Department of Health to pursue opportunities for productivity and greater effectiveness, while maintaining the high standard of its services. With dedication, commitment and innovation, and by working closely with the private sector and patients, I believe we can achieve more with the resources in hand.
In the coming year, I look forward to seeing the Hospital Authority making further concrete steps towards the community mode of health care delivery to reduce the reliance on in-patient services, encouraging greater involvement of patients to enhance compliance in the treatment process and improve patient outcome, and facilitating the private sector to play a bigger role in meeting the health care needs of the public. I understand that some pilot initiatives are well under way, such as the community allied health services schemes and the community drug compliance and counselling service. It is indeed encouraging to see that evidence based medicine is at work in the Hospital Authority. A recent local prospective, randomised controlled study demonstrated that reinforcing the message of treatment compliance by pharmacists over the telephone not only increased patient compliance but also reduced mortality in high risk patients by 40 per cent and reduced hospital treatment cost. I hope to see continuous improvements in the rolling out of these programmes as well as more evidence-based initiatives of these types to enable the community to see the fruits of the changes that we are pursuing. I am confident that Hong Kong will be able to rise to the challenge ahead of us and re-create a health care system that effectively provides comprehensive and holistic lifelong care for our population in the 21st century.
The Organising Committee of this year's convention has appropriately chosen "Changing for Sustainability" as the theme of this event. I hope the Convention will bring new and useful ideas for all participants on how to transform our health care system to meet future needs, and I wish all participants a very rewarding experience in attending the HA Convention.
Ends/Sunday, May 9, 2004