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Speech by SFH on the report of the first stage public consultation on healthcare reform

     Following is the opening speech by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, at a stand-up media session on the report of the first stage public consultation on healthcare reform at the West Wing lobby of Central Government Offices today (December 19):

     We would like to announce today the issue of the report of the first stage public consultation on healthcare reform.  The report summarised the views received during the public consultation conducted between March and June this year.

     The overall views of the first stage consultation can be summarised into three main points.

     Firstly, the community generally recognise an imminent need for healthcare reform.

     Secondly, the public has clear consensus supporting the service reform proposals, and considers that the Government should actively pursue them. These include enhancing primary care, promoting public-private partnership, developing electronic health record sharing, and strengthening the existing public healthcare safety net.

     The majority of the public recognises the need to address the issue of healthcare financing.  Despite divergent views on how to reform the healthcare financing arrangements, most agreed with the need to further deliberate the issue in-depth.

     For the service reforms on which there is broad consensus, we will make the best use of the increase in healthcare budget over the next few years to actively pursue them.  We have already initiated a series of plans to reform healthcare services, such as the pilot projects in the Policy Address to enhance primary care and strengthen chronic care support, implementing "money-follows-patient" public-private partnership pilots, developing electronic health record sharing systems in public and private sectors, etc.

     On financing, our questionnaire survey conducted in July showed that nearly two-thirds of the public recognised the need to reform the current healthcare financing arrangements.  Notwithstanding that there are opinions in support of or oppose to each of the supplementary financing proposal, in overall the public agrees that the long-term sustainability of the healthcare system is something that needs to be addressed and is prepared to continue to discuss healthcare financing.

     Despite the economic downturn, we need to continue to examine the issue of healthcare financing which affects the long-term development of our healthcare system.  There is also a need for the community to continue the deliberations and forge a consensus in good time.  As to whether and when any financing proposal should be implemented, it will depend on the prevailing socio-economic situation.

     In formulating possible proposals, the Government will have regard to four main principles reflected by the public during the first stage consultation.

     Firstly, to preserve the existing public healthcare as a safety net for all, while providing better and wider choice for individuals who are using or able to afford private services.

     Secondly, to take forward financing reform through a step-by-step approach having regard to the range of views received, and consider possible proposal(s) by stages, with a view to reaching long-term solutions.

     Thirdly, to consider standardised and incentivised arrangements to facilitate access to better protection and choices in healthcare with necessary flexibility to cater for the needs of different age or income segments of the population.

     And lastly, to be in line with the concept of "money-follows-patient" under the healthcare reform, while ensuring sufficient protection to users for price transparency and cost-effectiveness.

     I would also like to make it clear that the Government will continue to retain the $50 billion fiscal reserve pending decision on supplementary financing and consider how the funding should be used to assist the implementation of supplementary financing.

     I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the Health and Medical Development Advisory Committee, the general public, all the political parties, and many of the organisations of the society that give us a lot of feedback and opinion in the last few months.

Ends/Friday, December 19, 2008
Issued at HKT 20:57


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