2009-10 Policy Address by Chief Executive (10)

Healthcare Reform

74. Healthcare is close to the heart of the community. The Government will continue to increase the health budget to improve services.  By 2012, healthcare spending will increase from 15% of the Government's recurrent expenditure to 17%.

75. The Government has formulated a series of recommendations to enhance primary care so as to provide comprehensive care support for chronic patients. We will also develop a territory-wide electronic health record sharing system, which can save medical costs, minimise errors and safeguard patients' health.  This electronic system will underpin the reform of our primary healthcare services.

Healthcare Financing

76. To deal with the threat of human swine influenza, we have deferred the consultation exercise on healthcare financing.  The first-stage consultation on healthcare reform reflects a broad community consensus on the need for the Government to address the issue of healthcare financing.  However, the public has reservations about any healthcare financing scheme of a mandatory nature.

77. We are working on a supplementary financing option based on voluntary participation and planning to consult the public on the proposal next year.  This option will comprise insurance and savings components, and will be standardised and regulated by the Government.  We will also make use of the $50 billion set aside to support healthcare reform to provide subsidies and incentives to encourage members of the public to join the scheme.  This option will enable a wider choice of private healthcare services for those who can afford it, in particular those who are covered by health insurance.  The new option will ease the burden on the public healthcare system and make it more sustainable.  At the same time, we will explore how best to strengthen the public healthcare safety net to offer greater protection to patients who need costly medication and treatment.

Disease Control and Prevention

78. The Government has been paying close attention to the spread of human swine influenza to monitor any possible re-assortment of the virus or unusual patterns.  At this juncture, I will continue to chair the Emergency Response Level Steering Committee to lead the departments concerned in taking response measures.

79. Through a series of effective measures, we held back the spread of the virus in the early stage of its outbreak.  The closure of schools before the summer vacation slowed transmission among students.  While human swine influenza has now become the prevalent strain of influenza in Hong Kong, the symptoms of those infected are largely mild. However, as the winter influenza peak is approaching, we must remain vigilant and not let down our guard.

80. The Government's strategy on the prevention and control of common seasonal influenza and human swine influenza has three objectives: first, safeguarding public health; second, reducing the number of infected cases and slowing the spread of the disease; and, third, minimising the development of complications in those infected. To these ends, we will arrange seasonal influenza vaccinations for high-risk groups starting from this month. We have already started to provide pneumococcal vaccinations for the elderly and children to minimise the development of complications from influenza.  We will also provide human swine influenza vaccinations for vulnerable groups later this year.

(To be continued)

Ends/Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:09