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LCQ11: Specialist out-patient services in United Christian Hospital

    Following is a question by the Hon Fred Li and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (January 9):


     I have learnt that the waiting time for new cases in some specialist out-patient clinics at the United Christian Hospital (UCH) is the longest among the hospitals under the Hospital Authority (HA), and the rehabilitation services that UCH provides are also in acute shortage. As a result, each day about 200 patients (most of them being elderly people) in the district have to attend the Kowloon Hospital for its services on a long-term basis, and this arrangement is causing much inconvenience to such patients and their family members. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a)  it knows if HA has drawn up contingency measures to improve the above situation expeditiously; if contingency measures have been drawn up, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(b)  it has plans to allocate funds to HA for implementing a redevelopment project for UCH, so as to fully resolve the long-standing problem of inadequate medical services in its service area; if it has plans, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


Madam President,

(a)  The Hospital Authority (HA) has put in place a triage system at its specialist out-patient (SOP) clinics to ensure that higher priority for treatment will be given to those who are in acute medical conditions. Health care personnel arrange the date of medical appointment for new patients on the basis of the urgency of their conditions, taking into account various factors including the patients' clinical history, the presenting symptoms and the findings from physical examination and investigations. Under the triage system, new SOP cases are classified into priority 1 (urgent), priority 2 (semi-urgent) and routine categories. For priority 1 and priority 2 cases, patients would be given medical attention as soon as possible while the waiting time for patients with non-urgent conditions would be longer. If a patient's condition deteriorates before the date of appointment, he may request for an earlier appointment. If the condition is acute, the patient may also seek immediate treatment from accident and emergency departments. All cases classified as routine cases would be reviewed by a senior doctor in the relevant specialty within seven working days of the initial triage. As at the third quarter of 2007, the median waiting time of first appointment for priority 1 and priority 2 cases of SOP services in the United Christian Hospital (UCH) is within two weeks and eight weeks respectively, which meet the target set by the HA. As for non-urgent routine cases, the UCH would endeavour to align with HA's overall median waiting time. However, the median waiting time for first appointment of some specialties in the UCH differ from HA's overall median waiting times, that the median waiting time for first appointment of some specialties may be higher or lower than HA's overall median waiting time.

     As for rehabilitation services, some 300 convalescent beds are provided by the UCH and the Haven of Hope Hospital, which are also under the Kowloon East (KE) Cluster. In addition, the Kowloon Hospital, which is a specialist rehabilitation hospital in the adjacent Kowloon Central Cluster, provides a further 192 convalescent beds for the KE Cluster.

     To cope with the increase in service demand in the region of the KE Cluster, the HA has in 2007-08 provided the KE Cluster with an additional allocation of about $30 million on top of original provision to implement new service programmes and initiatives. These programmes and initiatives include the provision of an ambulatory surgery and ambulatory care centre in the Tseung Kwan O Hospital. Besides, in order to improve the rehabilitation care for elderly dischargees, a pilot project will be launched in Kwun Tong district in the first quarter of 2008 to provide integrated discharge support services to elderly dischargees who have difficulty in taking care of themselves. The KE Cluster also plans to strengthen the specialist services for treatment of breast cancer and psychiatric care and to set up an ear, nose and throat specialist centre in the UCH in 2008-09.

(b)  The KE Cluster would regularly review its services in the light of the demographic changes, growth in service demand and service utilisation; and plan for its future facilities and services on the basis of service needs. Any proposed project would be examined within the HA and submitted to the Government for consideration in accordance with established procedures. At present, the HA has no plan to redevelop the UCH.

Ends/Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Issued at HKT 11:25


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