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Opening remarks by SFH at press conference on initiatives of Food and Health Bureau in 2013 Policy Address (with video)

     Following is the opening remarks by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, at the press conference today (January 18) on policy initiatives of the Food and Health Bureau in the 2013 Policy Address:

     The Government will ensure the existing dual-track healthcare system remains strong and develops in a balanced and sustainable manner. On the public healthcare sector, we are making continuous efforts to improve the services of the Hospital Authority (HA) and would implement the following initiatives:

(1) We will continue to set aside resources to strengthen our public healthcare system and enhance its service quality;

(2) HA will add about 150 acute hospital beds and 130 additional convalescent beds to meet public demands;

(3) HA will expand the application of drugs listed in its Drug Formulary;

(4) HA will optimise the waiting list management of specialist out-patient clinics to reduce the waiting time; and

(5) We will actively pursue the construction of new hospitals including Tin Shui Wai Hospital and the Centre of Excellence in Paediatrics, and the expansion and redevelopment of the existing ones including United Christian Hospital, Queen Mary Hospital, Kwong Wah Hospital and Kwai Chung Hospital.

     To face new challenges brought about by the ageing population and advancement of healthcare technology and systems, we are going to set up a steering committee to review the role and positioning of HA, and to review HA's cluster management and staff systems, cost effectiveness and service levels.

     To ensure a sustainable manpower development in the healthcare sector, an additional amount of $200 million has been allocated to increase the number of first-year first-degree places in medicine by 100 to 420. The training places for nurses and allied health professionals will also be increased correspondingly in the coming triennial.

     The Steering Committee on Strategic Review on Healthcare Manpower Planning and Professional Development will also make recommendations on how to cope with anticipated demand for healthcare manpower, strengthen professional training and facilitate professional development. The work will be completed within this year.

     On the Health Protection Scheme, we will put forward a proposal this year on the implementation of the scheme, including supervisory and institutional frameworks and options for the provision of public subsidies or financial incentives.

     The Government will also introduce necessary measures to support the development of healthcare services in the private sector, including the disposal of land for private hospital development. We will announce the tender results of the two private hospital sites at Wong Chuk Hang and Tai Po shortly.

     The Steering Committee on Review of the Regulation of Private Healthcare Facilities set up last year aims at reviewing the regulatory regime for private healthcare facilities, with a view to strengthening the regulatory role of the Department of Health. The Steering Committee will also differentiate medical procedures and beauty services and study the regulation of high-risk medical procedures.

     We will also continue to strengthen public-private partnership in the healthcare sector. Over the past few years, a number of pilot projects have been implemented, including the Tin Shui Wai Primary Care Partnership Project and the Cataract Surgeries Programme. HA will study the feasibility of further outsourcing its services, such as diagnostic radiological services, and exploring the case for patients suffering from specific chronic illnesses with stable medical conditions to receive treatment in the private sector.

     To promote and develop Chinese medicine is one of the key initiatives this year. The Chinese Medicine Development Committee, chaired by myself, has been set up yesterday to study a number of major areas, such as enhancing the professional standards and status of Chinese medicine practitioners and expanding the role of Chinese medicine practitioners and Chinese medicine in the public healthcare systems.

     I will talk about the sustainable fisheries development fund and charges for municipal facilities. Apart from health issues, there are two other new initiatives under the Food and Health Bureau, namely the establishment of the sustainable fisheries development fund and the alignment of fees and charges for municipal facilities and services in the urban and New Territories regions.

     To assist the sustainable development of fisheries industry, the Government will set up a $500 million sustainable fisheries development fund to help fishermen adopt a sustainable and high value-added operation mode, and subsidise relevant programmes and research so as to enhance the overall competitiveness of the industry. Fishermen affected by the trawl ban which came into effect on December 31 last year will be among the beneficiaries.

     On charges for the municipal facilities and services, we plan to amend the law and align the fees and charges in the urban and New Territories regions. As a first step, the lower rate will prevail where fees or charges differ between the urban areas and the New Territories. This will cost the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) about $49 million annually.

     As these fees and charges have mostly remained unchanged since 2000, FEHD will as the next step conduct a comprehensive review of the charging policy and rates of these facilities and services.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the opening remarks.)

Ends/Friday, January 18, 2013
Issued at HKT 15:08


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