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Speech by FS at Hospital Authority Convention 2015 opening ceremony (English only) (with photo/video)

     Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the opening ceremony of the Hospital Authority Convention 2015 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre today (May 18):

Minister Ma (Xiaowei), Professor (John) Leong, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning.

     It has been three years since I last had the pleasure of officiating at the Hospital Authority Convention. And I am happy to be back.

     As Financial Secretary, I generally speak in front of bankers and occasionally journalists, who count money and report news for a living. And while they are certainly essential to the wealth and health of Hong Kong, and to all of us here, I sometimes feel more relaxed speaking to people who save lives for a living.

     I mean, if I am going to get suddenly, violently, sick while addressing this audience to whom do I hope to be speaking at the time? The Hong Kong Bankers Association? The Hong Kong Journalists Association? Or the Hospital Authority Convention? It's actually a no-brainer and with all due respect to my good friends in the financial community and the media community, I rest my case.

     Thanks to the dedication, commitment and expertise of our health-care professionals, Hong Kong is blessed with one of the most efficient, one of the most trusted, public hospital services in the world.

     And you don't have to take my word on that. According to a 2013 Bloomberg study, Hong Kong's health-care system was rated the most efficient among 48 countries and economies, ahead of in our region Singapore (second), Japan (third) and Australia (seventh).

     But - there is always a "but", isn't there? And I am sure you are all well acquainted with this "but". Like many economies today, Hong Kong faces the challenges of an ageing population and, at the same time, heightened expectations.

     With that in mind, we continue to strengthen our investment in the public health-care system. We are continuing to enhance the quality and capacity of affordable health care for the benefit of us all, now and in future.

     I have the numbers to back that up. For the 2015-16 financial year, the Government's recurrent subvention to the Hospital Authority (HA) amounts to some HK$50 billion as John has mentioned earlier, up about 50 per cent over just five years ago.

     In addition, we are supporting a variety of HA capital-works projects to help meet the community's long-term health-care needs. Capital expenditure for the projects under construction, or soon to be, is estimated at over HK$80 billion, contributing to an increase of up to 2,800 beds.

     The projects include Phase 1 of an acute general hospital in the Kai Tak development area, along with the Tin Shui Wai Hospital and the Hong Kong Children's Hospital. There are also many other enhancement projects that will increase the capacity as well as the capability of our existing institutions.

     Beyond extending our physical capacity, we need to look at new service delivery models, especially to take advantage of our unique dual-track public and private health-care sectors. This will enable us to make better use of private practitioners. They can help relieve the pressure of our public hospitals and create a better working environment for health-care professionals.

     Our public hospitals can then focus on serving as the cornerstone of Hong Kong's health-care system - the safety net for us all. And a pretty solid one at that. And with that in mind, we are setting up a HK$10 billion fund for HA to make use of the investment returns for public-private partnership initiatives. These include the extension of the General Outpatient Clinic Public-Private Partnership Programme to all districts, in phases.

     Equally important, we need to ensure an adequate supply of quality health-care professionals for meeting current and future needs. In order to do that, we are undertaking a strategic review on health-care manpower planning and professional development and it is expected to be completed this year.

     We have been exploring with the Hong Kong Medical Council ways to facilitate qualified overseas trained doctors to practice in Hong Kong, including increasing the frequency of our licensing examination and introducing more flexibility in the internship arrangement for overseas trained doctors.

     We are also considering increasing the number of publicly funded degree places in medicine, dentistry and other health disciplines in the next funding cycle for our universities.

     So, ladies and gentlemen, we are working hard to prepare ourselves to meet the challenge of the future and I look forward to hearing the result of your discussion today.

     Finally it remains only for me to extend my congratulations to the Hospital Authority on organising yet another successful Convention. I wish you all a rewarding two days. And the best of health in the coming year.

     Thank you so much. Have a great day.

Ends/Monday, May 18, 2015
Issued at HKT 11:18


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