Following is the speaking note of the Secretary for Health and Welfare, Dr E K Yeoh, at a press conference explaining the 2001-02 budget on health and welfare services today (March 9):
Thank you for coming to this Press Conference.
I would like to start by giving you an overview of the proposed budget for health, welfare and women services for the coming year. After that, the heads of departments and I will answer your questions.
In the coming year, we propose to allocate $65.31 billion for health and welfare services to meet our targets in these policy areas as well as to support the work of the Women's Commission. This represents 22.5% of the Total Public Expenditure.
To maintain and improve our health services, in 2001-02, public expenditure on health will be $33.9 billion, representing a real growth of +3.9% and accounting for 11.7% of the Total Public Expenditure. Of this sum, we propose to spend $31.8 billion on recurrent expenses - a net real growth of +3.2% after absorbing the 2% Enhanced Productivity Programme reductions.
As recommended in the Consultation Paper on Health Care Reform, one of our priorities in coming years is to enhance the effectiveness of our primary care and to develop community-based integrated services. These efforts will help improve our patients' quality of life and slow down the rapid increases in health costs.
The Department of Health will, in 2001-02, initiate a new adolescent health programme, conduct a survey to assess the community's oral health status, develop a cervical screening programme for women, strengthen our anti-smoking efforts and promote healthy ageing through proper diet and regular exercise.
In the long term, the Department plans to offer to the community a comprehensive, holistic and lifelong health programme, which will enable individuals to participate and take good care of their own health.
In 2001-02, the Hospital Authority (HA) will be given an allocation of $28.5 billion, a net increase of +1.9% over the current year. Starting from next year, the funding for HA will be based on population and demographic changes, rather than on the number of hospital beds. This new formula will be more conducive to the promotion of preventive health and community care.
To facilitate the development of family medicine, HA will, in 2001-02, pilot the practice of family medicine in 5 general out-patient clinics to be transferred from DH and increase the number of family medicine trainees in HA from 210 to 316. $75M will be allocated to HA for this purpose. We aim to, in the long term, implement family medicine practice in all general out-patient clinics.
To improve the services for discharged mental patients, in 2001-02, HA's Community Psychiatric Service will be significantly extended, increasing the total number of outreach services attendances by 14% to 96 010. These attendances will be further re-inforced by regular contacts and visits made by outreach community workers. An additional 2 500 patients will be provided with new psychiatric drugs, which will improve their quality of life, at an estimated cost of $50M per annum. A pilot programme will be carried out to assess 1 400 young persons to identify for early treatment those suffering from psychotic problems.
Not to forget in-patient needs, HA will open 569 new beds in 2001-02. Hence, despite the conversion of the hospital beds in Lai Chi Kok Hospital into long-stay care places for rehabilitating the mentally ill, there will still be a net addition of 145 hospital beds, bringing the total number of beds in the public sector to exceed 29 000. A special 2-year minor works programme, at an estimated cost of $100M, to enhance the repairs and maintenance of the general conditions of the public hospitals, will start next year.
The re-development of Pok Oi Hospital has commenced and will proceed as scheduled. Other hospital projects, including the re-modeling of Tsan Yuk Hospital into an ambulatory center, construction of a Trauma and Emergency Centre in the Prince of Wales Hospital, the establishment of a Radiotherapy Centre in Princess Margaret Hospital and others, are all being actively pursued.
In 2001-02, the public expenditure on social welfare services will be $31.4 billion, representing a real growth of +9.9% and accounting for 10.8% of the Total Public Expenditure.
As regards recurrent expenditure, we propose to spend for social welfare policy $30.2 billion to achieve a real growth of 9.3% over the current year. This will account for 13.8% of Total Recurrent Public Expenditure. I will elaborate more on the recurrent expenditure.
During the past year, we have gained positive support from the welfare NGOs in reforming the subvention system which currently amounts to over $6.4 billion. This is a much welcomed development as we strive together to achieve the twin objectives of enhancing service quality for our clients and improving cost-effectiveness in the delivery of those services. In the coming year, we will continue to help NGOs transit to the new Lump Sum Grant funding mode by setting up a Help Centre to provide practical support and advice. We will also enhance service performance through the full implementation of Service Quality Standards and Funding and Service Agreements.
As Hong Kong's population continues to age, we will continue to expand and improve our care services for our older persons. Our goal is to improve their quality of life, by helping them to retain self-esteem, feeling of control and sense of coherence.
Next year, we will spend a total of $3.2 billion on direct welfare services for older persons, 16% increase compared with 2000/01. With the additional resources, we will provide an additional 2,541 subsidized residential care places through a mixed mode of provision, involving both the subvented and private sectors.
To enable frail older persons to age at home, we will continue to place emphasis on strengthening our home and community care services. We have just completed the first round of competitive bidding exercise for enhanced home and community care for the benefit of 1,450 frail older persons. Instead of admission to residential care homes, these frail older persons will continue to live at home and receive integrated day and community care services in accordance with their needs. Next year, we will provide additional resources to provide such services to another 2,500 frail older persons.
To ensure that frail older persons can receive adequate medical services in the community, we will provide additional resources to the Community Geriatric Assessment Teams of the Hospital Authority. They are expected to pay visit to the great majority of elderly care homes in Hong Kong to improve their health status, thereby reducing the need for admission to hospital.
On social security, we are encouraged by the results of the package of measures introduced in the last two years to assist able-bodied CSSA recipients to regain independence. The CSSA unemployment caseload has continued to decline since June 1999, which clearly demonstrates that many employable recipients do not wish to rely on CSSA indefinitely; and with assistance, they can become self-reliant.
In the coming year, we will provide assistance under various intensive and special employment assistance programmes to help the single parents, long term unemployed and low income CSSA recipients to regain self-reliance. We shall monitor the effectiveness of these programmes and hope that they can help to control the growth in CSSA expenditure.
Other Direct Welfare Services
In 2001-02, we will continue to introduce new initiatives, and expand our existing welfare services to better address societal challenges.
Young people are the future of our community. There has been increasing concern expressed in the community about our young people, particularly, those at risk. To help them overcome their problems, the FS has earmarked $84M in additional recurrent funds next year rising to $177M in 2003-04, in addition to funding pledges already announced in the Policy Address. Our approach is to focus on the early identification of those most at risk, timely intervention and support and steering marginal youth back onto the right course. Some of the major initiatives include -
- Screen Form 1 students in 200 Secondary Schools to identify youth-at-risk and provide preventive programmes;
- Form more Integrated Teams and strengthen 18 existing Integrated Teams to assist youth with problems and to extend services to Young Night Drifters;
- Provide funds to increase the manpower in Police School Liaison Teams thereby allowing the Police to undertake more intensive and dedicated work with schools;
- Provide additional professional social worker input to SWD District Youth Offices to enhance inter-sectoral collaboration; and support to 7 Academically Low Achievement schools;
- Set up 3 additional Community Support Service Scheme teams (making 5 in total) thereby ensuring territory-wide coverage. These teams aim to reduce the likelihood of young offenders (those subject to a Probation Order or discharged from a Probation Home or marginal youth cautioned under the Police Superintendent's Discretionary Scheme) committing another offence;
- Provide an additional 500 day care centre places for pre-school children;
- Provide an additional 22 child custody and protection workers; and
- Provide strengthened services to assist victims of domestic violence and families in crisis including, the setting up of a multi-purpose family crisis support centre.
Apart from helping our young people, we will also continue to look after the physical and psychological well-being of other disadvantaged groups in society and assist them to be self-reliant. To discharge our responsibilities towards the disabled, the FS has earmarked $219M in 2001-02 to implement a major package of initiatives. Again, this is in addition to funding for pledges already made which will already result in the provision of over 2 400 places in the coming years. As regards the new initiative referred to in the FS' Budget speech, a further 2 700 residential and day places on top of the pledged places, will be provided over the next five years. Other major components of the package announced by the FS include the following -
We will encourage self-reliance by -
- introducing a new on-the-job training programme for 350 disabled persons each year for the next three years; and
- encourage NGOs to form self-financing small enterprises to employ disabled workers. Seed money of $50M will be available.
We will continue to provide supportive services by -
- re-engineering support services available to the disabled living with their families by providing more after-care services, and enhanced integration of existing day support services.
We will pursue excellence by -
- providing subsidies to disabled athletes and facilitate the employment of retired disabled athletes. A non-recurrent grant of $50M will be made available.
As highlighted in the CE's Policy Address, the poverty alleviation measures are both long and short term, and both broad and targeted in nature. At the macro level, the Government will continue to foster economic growth thereby providing the right environment for people to leave the poverty net. In particular, we will integrate our economic and social policies to ensure that members of the community have the necessary qualifications, knowledge and skills to benefit from the new economy.
At the micro-economic level, the job creation programme complemented by training and retraining will help vulnerable groups to secure and retain gainful employment. Starting from 2001-02 the Government will create an additional 15 000 jobs over the coming two years. Most of these jobs will be created in the medical, the social welfare, and community development Sectors and will result in the provision of a higher quality of service to our clients in these Sectors. We have made a good start in the creation of these jobs, and have brought forward the recruitment of 600 jobs in this financial year and expect to continue the recruitment in the next few months.
We established the Women's Commission in January this year. The Commission is tasked to serve as a central body for the identification of all women's needs, to address all matters of concern to women, and it will develop a long-term vision and strategies for the development and advancement of women. The Government has been providing services for women and girls under different policy portfolios such as education, employment etc. Under the 2001-02 draft Estimates, recurrent public expenditure $23.7 million is provided to facilitate the work of the Women's Commission. Subject to the Commission's further deliberation, its work is likely to include -
- enhancing gender awareness and eliminating gender stereotyping in the community;
- commissioning studies, surveys and research on women's issues and their needs;
- reviewing services for women and promoting the development of new or improved services;
- collecting sex-disaggregated data and establishing a database as well as publishing a report on women- related statistics; and
- establishing regular contacts with local women's groups and service agencies and participating in key international fora.
End/Friday, March 9, 2000
( Floor / English / Chinese)