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LCQ6: Medical expenditure incurred for inmates

    Following is a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, (in the absence of Secretary for Security) to a question by the Hon Joseph Lee in the Legislative Council today (November 14):


     It has been reported that recently, some illegal entrants ("IEs") have come to Hong Kong to commit crimes so that they can receive free medical and drug treatment in Hong Kong upon being sentenced to imprisonment.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of hospital beds in the local institutions of the Correctional Services Department ("CSD") in each of the past three years, the respective occupancy rates of such beds by local and IE inmates, and the common types of illnesses suffered by IE inmates;

(b) whether it will require CSD and the Department of Health to record the medical expenditure incurred by IE inmates in order to assess whether the medical funding allocated to CSD's local institutions is sufficient to meet the demands concerned; and

(c) whether it has considered collecting from the countries to which the IE inmates belong the medical fees incurred by them in Hong Kong, or collecting the relevant fees from such persons (e.g. by deducting such fees from the wages they earn when working in CSD's institutions)?


Madam President,

(a) The number of hospital beds in penal institutions of the Correctional Services Department (CSD) and their respective occupancy rate in each of the past three years are as follows:

Year      Number of hospital beds    Average bed
                                    occupancy rate
----      -----------------------   --------------
2004             733                    89.3%
2005             733                    98.2%
2006             730                    85.8%
2007             733                    88.6%
to October)

     Hospital beds in penal institutions are provided for all inmates who need them.  No differentiation is made on the basis of the inmates' status or classification.  We are, therefore, not able to provide the respective occupancy rates by local inmates and those who are illegal entrants (IE).

     Inmates are admitted to hospitals in penal institutions mainly for treatment of psychotropic substance abuse, psychiatric illness, fever, and diseases related to upper respiratory tract infection.  CSD does not have breakdown figures for the common types of illnesses suffered by IE inmates.

(b) In the past three financial years, the average medical expenditure incurred for inmates remained around $150 million with no significant upward trend.  According to CSD's assessment, the existing resources allocated to the provision of medical services in penal institutions are sufficient to meet service demand.  As such, we do not see the need to require CSD and the Department of Health to keep a separate record of the medical expenditure incurred for IE inmates or to establish a separate assessment mechanism.

(c) Any person who breaks the law of Hong Kong will be subject to court action. CSD has the statutory obligation to detain persons committed to their custody according to courts' ruling.  Pursuant to the Prisons Ordinance (Cap. 234), CSD is obliged to provide all inmates with, among others, meals and medical services.  This is in line with Principle 24 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1988, i.e. penal institutions shall offer free medical care and treatment to a detained or imprisoned person whenever necessary.  Principle 5 also clearly states that the Body of Principles shall be applied to all persons within the territory of any given State, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion or religious belief, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, birth or other status.  In the light of the above principles, we will not collect medical fees from individual inmates.

Ends/Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Issued at HKT 15:34


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