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LCQ15: SARS Trust Fund

     Following is a question by Dr Hon Joseph Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (December 16):


     In 2003, the Government set up the Trust Fund for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) (Trust Fund) to provide financial assistance for family members of deceased SARS patients, people who recovered from SARS and "suspected" SARS patients who had been treated with steroids.  Regarding the provision of assistance for people who recovered from SARS, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the current balance of the Trust Fund, and the number of persons still receiving financial assistance from the Trust Fund at present;

(b) whether it knows the number of SARS patients who have been assessed by the Hospital Authority (HA) to be suffering from permanent dysfunctions; apart from the Trust Fund, whether the Government will make longer term arrangements for them;

(c) given that HA provides SARS patients with life-long free medical services to treat their health problems caused by SARS, whether it knows the respective medical services provided and not provided by HA, as well as the reasons for not providing certain services; and

(d) regarding persons who have been assessed to have recovered from SARS and hence may not continue to obtain assistance from the Trust Fund, whether the Government will follow up their situations, e.g. look into their mental and health conditions and employment situations, etc; if it will, of the details; if not, whether it will take follow up actions?



     The Trust Fund (Trust Fund) for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was established in 2003 to provide special ex-gratia financial assistance on compassionate grounds to families of deceased SARS patients, recovered and suspected SARS patients.  The Trust Fund provides:

- special one-off ex-gratia relief payments for eligible family members of the deceased SARS patients; and

- special ex-gratia financial assistance for eligible recovered or suspected SARS patients treated with steroids suffering from longer term effects attributable to SARS (including the effects of medication received for SARS, if any), resulting in some degree of bodily dysfunctions, subject to proof of medical and financial needs.

     To be eligible for the ex-gratia financial assistance, recovered or suspected SARS patients must have some degree of SARS-related dysfunctions, which mainly include bone abnormality (namely avascular necrosis), pulmonary dysfunction, physical dysfunction and psychological dysfunction.  The assistance is made up of two components:

- monthly financial assistance, having regard to (i) the income loss/reduction of the recovered patient/suspected patient arising from SARS; and (ii) any justifiable increase of expenditure arising from SARS.  The assistance to cover the income loss/reduction in (i) is subject to a cap of 200% of the prevailing Median Monthly Domestic Household Income, while that in (ii) is provided on a reimbursable basis; and

- monthly medical expenditure assistance, which covers (i) expenditure for dietary supplement and transport expenses; and (ii) other justifiable medical expenses reimbursable with reference to the rates of the Hospital Authority (HA).

     The Administration's reply to the various parts of the question is set out below:

(a) As at end-November 2009, 156 recipients were receiving financial assistance (including monthly financial assistance and/or monthly medical expenditure assistance) under the Trust Fund.  The current balance of the Trust Fund is about $32 million.  Adopting the existing disbursement rate, it is projected that the Trust Fund should be able to maintain operation for another two to three years and continue to provide financial assistance to the recipients in need.

(b) The Administration is now reviewing the conditions of the Trust Fund recipients, with the objective of examining whether there is a need for some longer term arrangements to cater for the needs of those who, according to HA's assessment, are suffering from permanent dysfunctions.

(c) The HA implemented the Fee Waiver Scheme for Post-SARS Follow-up Complications (Scheme) in 2005 targeting those patients who were infected with, but already recovered from, SARS.  The HA would issue a post-SARS follow-up card to these patients.  Card holders are entitled to free medical treatment and rehabilitation services when they attend the medical follow-up with the HA specialties on illnesses related to SARS.  These specialties include Family Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Orthopaedics and Tramatology, Paediatrics, Psychiatrics, Pain, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Clinical Psychology.  If the recovered patients need to consult specialties other than those listed above for treatment on illnesses related to SARS, their in-patient and out-patient charges would be waived if they have documentary referrals from their current attending doctors.

(d) SARS recovered patients in need of any medical, welfare or employment services may approach the relevant departments for assistance.  The social workers responsible for their cases will also provide assistance according to their needs.

Ends/Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:00


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