LCQ8: University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital

     Following is a question by the Hon Albert Ho Chun-yan and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (July 11):


     In recent years, there has been an ongoing wastage of doctors in the public hospitals, but the proposal put forward by the Hospital Authority to recruit overseas doctors is opposed by the medical sector.  At the same time, under the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, Hong Kong doctors may practise on the Mainland.  Recently, it has been reported that the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine (Faculty of Medicine) of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) collaborates with the Shenzhen Municipal Government to operate the HKU-Shenzhen Hospital (Shenzhen Hospital), and has deployed a number of renowned professors to work at Shenzhen Hospital.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the total number of the university academic staff who are deployed to work at the Shenzhen Hospital by HKU; the number of Hong Kong doctors other than HKU's academic staff recruited by the hospital; given that it has been reported that in order to make up for the professors deployed to work at the Shenzhen Hospital, HKU has given each specialist department permission to recruit at least three additional doctors, whether the authorities have assessed if this measure implemented by HKU will aggravate the wastage of doctors in the public hospitals, and evaluate the impact of the operation of the Shenzhen Hospital by HKU on the demand for local doctors;

(b) given that even though the aforesaid professors of the Faculty of Medicine who are deployed to work at the Shenzhen Hospital are HKU's employees, they have signed employment agreements with the Shenzhen Hospital at the same time and are required to complete their assigned tasks at the Shenzhen Hospital within a specified period of time, and that Hong Kong residents are not Shenzhen Hospital's target clients and the tasks of these professors are not related to teaching, whether it knows if such arrangements are in compliance with the funding criteria set down by the University Grants Committee (UGC); if they are in compliance with the funding criteria, whether UGC will conduct a review to ensure that the work of the university academic staff who are paid by the public money of Hong Kong is to serve the academia, members of the public and students in Hong Kong;

(c) given that the professors of HKU's Faculty of Medicine mentioned in (b), who have signed employment agreements with the Shenzhen Hospital, are required to strictly abide by the various laws and regulations of the country, and a number of renowned professors are even responsible for the management of the Shenzhen Hospital and are accountable to the Shenzhen Hospital's board of directors, whether it knows if HKU's Faculty of Medicine and the Medical Council of Hong Kong have conducted studies on how these professors should deal with situations where the requests made by the Shenzhen Hospital's board of directors and the mainland laws and regulations are in violation of the code of practice of the doctors in Hong Kong; if such studies have been conducted, of the details; and

(d) whether it knows if Hong Kong residents seeking medical treatment at the Shenzhen Hospital can request their attending doctors to refer them to Hong Kong's public hospitals for treatment; if not, of the reasons for that; when local public hospitals receive referrals in respect of Hong Kong residents made by Hong Kong doctors practising on the Mainland, how they ascertain whether the referrals are made by such doctors when they are practising in Hong Kong or on the Mainland?



     Having consulted the Education Bureau, our reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) and (c) The Shenzhen Hospital is a joint project between the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Shenzhen Municipal Government.  The arrangements made by HKU to recruit doctors and deploy manpower for the Shenzhen Hospital are solely HKU's internal affairs in which the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has not been involved.

     According to our understanding, while some of the doctors of the Faculty of Medicine of HKU will concurrently take up work in the Shenzhen Hospital, most of the doctors and nurses of the Shenzhen Hospital will be employed on the Mainland.  Under such circumstances, this should not have a significant impact on the overall manpower demand for doctors in Hong Kong.  The Hospital Authority (HA) has always been concerned about the demand for hospital services and the manpower situation of doctors, and will maintain liaison with the Faculty of Medicine of HKU to closely monitor the impact brought about by the operation of the Shenzhen Hospital on the manpower situation of doctors in Hong Kong.

     According to the Code of Professional Conduct for the Guidance of Registered Medical Practitioners, adverse findings on a Hong Kong registered medical practitioner in disciplinary proceedings by other professional regulatory bodies in or outside Hong Kong may likewise invoke the Medical Council of Hong Kong's disciplinary procedure.

(b) HKU is an independent autonomous statutory body that enjoys institutional autonomy in engaging in self-financing activities.  Nevertheless, as a University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded institution, HKU should ensure that its self-financing activities do not detract from the university's core work in Hong Kong, and that there should be a distinct separation of resources between UGC-funded and self-financing activities.  The UGC Notes on Procedures stipulates that there should not be any cross-subsidisation of UGC resources to self-financing activities.  To avoid hidden subsidy to non-UGC-funded activities, the institutions should levy overhead charges on such activities.

     According to information given by HKU to the UGC Secretariat, the operation of the hospital in Shenzhen has all along been in compliance with the no cross-subsidisation requirement set out in the UGC Notes on Procedures.  The university has been recovering necessary costs in respect of the portion of UGC-funded resources consumed by these activities.  HKU also contends that, using the resources so recovered, it will correspondingly recruit more staff so that there should not be any manpower depletion from the Faculty of Medicine in Hong Kong.  Meanwhile, HKU students can benefit from additional learning opportunities and exposure at the hospital in Shenzhen.

     The UGC is currently looking into the self-financing activities conducted outside Hong Kong by its funded institutions, as well as the financial relationships between the institutions proper and the subsidiaries responsible for such financing activities.  The UGC will, on a need basis, recommend to the Government on stipulating appropriate guidelines for institutions in this aspect.  Meanwhile, the Government and UGC will follow-up with HKU on the arrangement of deploying teaching staff to the hospital in Shenzhen, with a view to ensuring that teaching staff in Hong Kong will continue to accord priority to serving local students, and that the quality of medicine teaching and research in Hong Kong will not be adversely affected.

(d) According to the current arrangement for provision of public healthcare services by HA, Hong Kong residents who wish to receive treatment at local public hospitals do not need any referral to receive accident and emergency (A&E) and general out-patient services.  Hong Kong residents may visit HA's A&E departments or general out-patient clinics on their own for medical consultation wherever necessary.

     As for specialist out-patient services, while no regular mechanism has been established for accepting referrals made by medical institutions outside Hong Kong for Hong Kong residents to receive treatment at specialist out-patient clinics of public hospitals in Hong Kong, specialist out-patient clinics under HA do accept referrals made by registered medical practitioners practising in Hong Kong.  As long as a patient has obtained a referral from a registered medical practitioner practising in Hong Kong, he/she can receive specialist out-patient services provided by HA.

Ends/Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Issued at HKT 13:04