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LCQ15: Dental care services for elderly

     Following is a question by the Hon Alice Mak and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (March 20):


     The Government launched a three-year pilot project on outreach primary dental care services for the elderly (the pilot project) in April 2011 to provide free outreach primary dental care and oral health care services to the elderly in need in residential care homes or day care centres through non-governmental organisations. The authorities estimated that services would be provided for 100 000 persons (in terms of head counts) under the pilot project, and they undertook to conduct an interim review two years after its implementation.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:  

(a) of the number of attendances of the elderly receiving the aforesaid services hitherto, with a breakdown by type of service (e.g. dental examination, scaling and polishing, pain relief and emergency dental treatment);

(b) of the expenditure incurred by the pilot project hitherto; given that quite a number of elderly people have lost most of their teeth and therefore need to wear dentures, whether the authorities will consider afresh extending the scope of the services provided under the pilot project to cover crowning and tooth-filling; if they will, of the details, including the estimated additional expenditure to be incurred annually; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) whether the authorities will consider expanding the service targets of the pilot project to cover all elderly people in Hong Kong; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) when the authorities will announce the results of the interim review of the pilot project; of the criteria based on which the authorities assess the effectiveness of the pilot project, and whether they have set targets for the project; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Government's policy on dental care seeks to raise public awareness of oral hygiene and oral health and encourage the proper oral health habits through promotion and education.  To enhance the oral health of the public, the Oral Health Education Unit of the Department of Health (DH) has, over the years, implemented oral health promotion programmes targeted at different age groups and disseminated oral health information through different channels.  The Government also provides emergency dental services to the public. Free emergency dental treatments are provided by DH through 11 government dental clinics. In addition, DH provides specialist oral maxillofacial surgery and dental treatment to the referred hospital in-patients, patients with special oral health care needs and dental emergency in the Oral Maxillofacial Surgery and Dental Units (OMS&DUs) at seven public hospitals.

     General dental care services, such as scaling and polishing and fillings, are mainly provided by the private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). There are currently over 2 050 registered dentists in Hong Kong. To cater for the needs of elders with financial difficulties, recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) aged 60 or above or medically certified to be disabled or in ill-health are eligible for the dental grants under the CSSA Scheme to cover expenses of dental treatments, including scaling and polishing, fillings, extraction, dentures, crowns, bridges and root canal treatment. In 2011-12, the Administration approved a total of 11 010 applications for dental grants.  Moreover, the Elderly Health Care Vouchers can be used for dental services.  Since the introduction of the Elderly Health Care Voucher Pilot Scheme in 2009, a total of 480 dentists have participated in the Scheme.  The annual voucher amount per eligible elder has doubled from $500 to $1,000 since January 1, 2013. The Government will convert the Elderly Health Care Voucher Scheme from a pilot project to a recurrent support programme for the elderly in 2014.  

     As most elders residing in residential care homes (RCHEs) or receiving services in day care centres (DEs) are physically weak, their frail conditions have made it difficult for them to receive dental care services at dental clinics. In the light of this, the Government launched the three-year "Pilot Project on Outreach Primary Dental Care Services for the Elderly in RCHEs and DEs" (the Pilot Project) in collaboration with NGOs in April 2011 to provide outreach primary dental care and oral health care services to these elders. The Pilot Project is expected to provide services for about 100 000 attendances. As at end-February 2013, the Pilot Project had undertaken over 57 200 attendances of elders residing in RCHEs or receiving services in DEs (including dental check-up and the necessary pain relief and emergency dental treatments), of which about 11 400 attendances involved scaling and polishing. The total expenditure for the first two years' operation of the Pilot Project was about $46 million.

     Under the Pilot Project, the participating NGOs will provide the necessary treatments for the elders who are in need of follow-up (e.g. dentures and fillings) and, where necessary, assist the elders to apply for dental grants under the CSSA Scheme or to provide financial assistance to them direct.

     We are now conducting an interim review on the Pilot Project and will brief the Panel on Health Services of the Legislative Council on the findings later this year.

Ends/Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Issued at HKT 14:59


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