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LCQ19: Complaints mechanism of Hospital Authority

     Following is a question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (February 6):


     Will the Government inform this Council whether it knows:

(a) the current number of Patient Relations Officers in each public hospital who are responsible for handling complaints lodged by patients or their families;

(b) the number of complaints from patients or their families received by each public hospital in the past five years, with a breakdown by nature of the complaints (e.g. medical blunders and attitude of healthcare personnel);

(c) given that the Performance Targets of the Hospital Authority (HA) specify that hospitals should respond to complaints made by patients or their families within six weeks (within three months for complex cases), the number of complaints handled by each public hospital in the past five years in which such target was not met;

(d) among the complaints handled by each public hospital in the past five years, the number of cases that were found to be substantiated and on which follow-up actions were required; among them, the respective numbers of cases in which the healthcare personnel concerned were punished and the forms of punishment (set out in table form);

(e) given that HA's two-tier system in handling complaints provides that a complainant may appeal against the relevant hospital's decision on his/her complaint to HA's Public Complaints Committee (PCC), the number of appeals received by PCC in the past five years; among them, the number of cases which had been found to be substantiated and on which follow-up actions were required;

(f) among the complaints mentioned in (b), the number of cases involving medical blunders and for which mediation was conducted; among them, the number of cases in which HA made compensations to the patients concerned or their families, and the amount of public funds involved;

(g) the way in which HA publicises the appeal mechanism mentioned in (e) at present;

(h) how HA handles cases in which the patients or their families are dissatisfied with PCC's decisions on their appeals; and

(i) given that the statistics on the complaints made by patients or their families are available in the annual reports of PCC and the Patient Relations Office of the HA Head Office, but the reports have not been uploaded onto HA's web site and members of the public can have access to such reports only when they attend HA Board meetings as observers, whether HA has assessed if such an arrangement goes against its Code of Conduct which specifies that HA shall adopt an open attitude; if the assessment outcome is in the affirmative, the reasons for adopting such an arrangement?



     The Hospital Authority (HA) attaches great importance to the comments of various stakeholders. With regard to public complaints, HA has a two-tier complaints mechanism. The first tier is at the hospital level which is responsible for dealing with all complaints lodged for the first time. If a complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of his/her complaint at the hospital level, he/she may appeal to the second tier, namely the Public Complaints Committee (PCC) of HA. To ensure that complaints will be handled in a fair and independent manner, all members of PCC are not administrative staff of HA.  Apart from handling complaints, PCC will also collect and monitor the views put forward by the public on HA. A breakdown of different types of views on HA's hospitals received between 2007 and 2011 is listed in Table 1.

     Table 1 shows that the majority of views received by HA are appreciation. Notwithstanding, HA will seriously examine all types of views received and effect improvement where appropriate with a view to providing better service to the public.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) The number of Patient Relations Officers responsible for handling public complaints and enquiries in all hospitals under HA is at Table 2.

(b) The numbers and types of complaint cases received by all hospitals under HA between 2007 and 2011 are at Table 3.

(c) While HA is involved in a number of complaints with different complexity which require different processing time, HA is able to complete handling a significant majority of the cases within the target response time.  The number of cases that cannot be completed within the target response time by HA hospitals between 2007 and 2011 is set out in Table 4.

(d) The objective of HA's complaint mechanism is to improve its service delivery and help resolve the problems for the complainants. Hence, when HA handles the cases, the emphasis is not on whether the cases are substantiated.  Indeed, whenever there is room for improvement in the delivery of service identified upon the handling of complaints, the hospitals will take appropriate follow-up actions irrespective of whether the cases are substantiated or not. As for the appeal cases handled by PCC, the numbers of cases substantiated and partially substantiated can be found in the table under part (e) of the question.

     On the other hand, staff punishment involves factors from multiple aspects. HA will follow the requirements as stipulated in its Human Resources Policies to take appropriate actions having regard to the seriousness of the cases. HA has not gathered statistics on the punishment imposed solely arising from complaints.

(e) From 2007 to 2011, the number of appeal cases handled by PCC and the numbers of substantiated and partially substantiated cases among these cases are set out in the Table 5.

     In the course of handling the appeal cases, PCC will make recommendations to HA for appropriate follow-up actions if it has identified room for improvement in the delivery of service in the hospitals or in the healthcare system, irrespective of whether the appeal cases are substantiated or not.

(f) The number of cases of medical claims and cases in which mediation was conducted, and the amount of compensation involved during the period between 2007 and 2011 are set out in Table 6.

(g) HA promotes its two-tier complaint handling system (including the appeal mechanism under PCC) to the public through a number of channels. These channels include publishing pamphlets on the complaint mechanism, uploading relevant information to HA's website, meeting patients' groups on a regular basis, reporting annually the work progress to the open meeting of the HA Board Meeting, setting up an enquiry hotline, and conducting briefings by Patient Relations Officers, etc.

(h) PCC is a committee established under HA Board and is the final complaint handling authority of HA. Its decision on a particular complaint represents the final decision of HA.  If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of his/her appeal, he/she may consider resorting to other complaint avenues outside HA (such as the Medical Council of Hong Kong and The Ombudsman, etc.), depending on the nature of the case.

(i) Apart from the HA Annual Report, HA also publishes the number of complaint cases received each year in the Annual Report of the Public Complaints Committee and the Patient Relations and Engagement Department of the HA Head Office. The Annual Report is uploaded to the HA website ( for easy reference by the public. Direct web link to the Annual Report is

Ends/Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:31


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