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LCQ12: Private hospitals

    Following is a question by the Dr Hon Kwok Ka-ki and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (December 12):


     It has been reported that both public and private hospitals face the problem of shortage in bed spaces, resulting in some patients of private hospitals having to wait for treatment at public hospitals. Regarding the development of private hospitals, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  as the Government advised in its reply to my question in July last year that where an application for running private hospitals fulfilled established government policies and public interest considerations, it would offer appropriate assistance, of the meaning of "public interest" and "appropriate assistance" mentioned above;

(b)  given that the Chief Executive mentioned in his Policy Address this year that the Government would make available a number of greenfield sites at nominal premium for the development of new international schools or the expansion of existing schools with interest-free capital works assistance loans, whether the Government will apply the same policy to the construction of private hospitals; if it will not, of the reasons for that; and

(c)  whether it has assessed if its long-term health care policies are capable of assisting voluntary bodies and private organisations in building private hospitals, thereby facilitating Hong Kong's competition with places such as Singapore and Shanghai in the strive to become the medical centre in Asia?

Madam President,

     According to the statistics from the Hospital Authority and the Department of Health, public hospitals provided a total of 27 633 beds which had an average occupancy rate of about 81.7% as at March 31, 2007. As at June 2007, private hospitals provided a total of 3 217 beds which had an average occupancy rate of about 67%. There are however variations of different degree in the actual occupancy rate between individual private hospitals. In private sector, it is for doctors and their patients to decide on the choice of private hospitals for services. Thus, based on their personal conditions and considerations, individual patients of private hospitals may choose to wait for treatment at public hospitals.

(a) and (b)  In general, an interested party may purchase land from private landowners or the Government for private development. The Government usually sells land by open bidding (public auction or tender). If an organisation applies for a private treaty grant from the Government, the Administration would examine the application having regard to relevant government policies and public interest considerations, which include the overall benefits for the community, strategic importance of the application, etc. We would also consider the feasibility of the proposal, the nature and background of the organisation, as well as its capacity to implement the proposed construction project. During the vetting process, the Administration would maintain close communication with the applicants.

     Education and health care service are two distinctly different kinds of services. In considering direct land grant for building either schools or hospitals, the Administration would also give regard to the relevant considerations mentioned in the second paragraph above.

(c)  At present, the majority of hospital services are provided by public hospitals. This has resulted in an imbalance between the public and private hospital services. In its consultation document published in July 2005, the Health and Medical Development Advisory Committee (HMDAC) pointed out that it is important to re-align the roles of the public and private sectors in developing our future health care model. HMDAC recommended that our public health care service sector should prioritise its services for the following four target areas: acute and emergency care; provision of services for low income and under-privileged groups; illnesses that entail high cost, advanced technology and multi-disciplinary professional team work; and training of health care professionals. We would develop our public health care services along this direction as recommended by the HMDAC.

     At the same time, we would continue to explore various ways to encourage the private sector to play a greater role in health care provision. For instance, as the first step to redress the imbalance between the public and private sectors, we will launch a one-off programme in the coming year to provide subsidies for patients in public hospitals to undertake cataract surgeries in the private sector, conduct a pilot project to purchase private general out-patient services in Tin Shui Wai, and explore the establishment of medical centres of excellence in the specialties of paediatrics and neuroscience in order to encourage multi-partite collaboration. Besides, we would consider introducing public-private-partnership for the development of new or existing hospitals, so that we can foster the cooperation between public and private sectors, enhance the quality and professional standard of services and offer more choices to the public. We would continue to monitor the actual public demand for health care services and the development of local health care services, with a view to creating more opportunities for exchanges and cooperation between the public and private sectors. Meanwhile, we understand that some non-governmental organisations are interested in the development or expansion of private hospitals. We would look at their needs and actively consider the appropriate approach.

Ends/Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Issued at HKT 12:20


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