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LCQ16: Provision of public healthcare services during long holidays

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kwok-him and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (March 16):


     During long holidays, as most private clinics do not offer consultation, many patients can only seek consultation at the accident and emergency (A&E) departments of public and private hospitals, making the utilisation of A&E services soar during such periods, and such a situation may render patients whose medical conditions are more critical unable to receive timely treatment.  It has been reported that during this year's Lunar New Year holiday, patients triaged as non-urgent waited for about nine hours at the A&E departments of both the United Christian Hospital and the North District Hospital, and patients seeking consultation at the A&E departments of private hospitals also waited for about five hours before they were treated by doctors.  Regarding the provision of medical services for the public during long holidays, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the respective average waiting times of non-urgent patients at the A&E departments of various public hospitals during this year's Lunar New Year holiday and the five hospitals that recorded the longest waiting time;

(2) given that the Budget delivered last month has proposed to allocate a recurrent funding of $51.6 billion to the Hospital Authority (HA) in 2016-2017, which is a downward adjustment of $12 million when compared with last year's revised estimate, whether the authorities know how HA, under the situation where its resources are reduced, can maintain and even increase the medical services provided at various A&E departments during long holidays;

(3) given that the Hong Kong Medical Association regularly makes public MediLink Find a Doctor during Long Holidays on its web site to enable members of the public to find out the contact information of those private doctors who offer consultation during long holidays, but not every District Council district has private doctors offering consultation during such periods, whether the authorities will recommend to HA that public hospital doctors (except those on duty at A&E departments) be encouraged to offer consultation at private clinics during their vacation leave, with a view to reducing the number of patients seeking consultation at the A&E departments of public hospitals during such periods; if not, of the reasons for that; and

(4) whether it knows if HA has formulated special measures to cope with the situation where a large number of patients may seek consultation at the A&E departments of public hospitals during the Easter holiday this month?



     In respect of the question raised by the Hon Ip Kwok-him on the provision of healthcare services for the public during long holidays, my reply is as follows:

(1) The annex shows the waiting time of patients classified as Category IV (semi-urgent) and Category V (non-urgent) in the accident and emergency (A&E) departments of the Hospital Authority (HA) during the past Lunar New Year.

(2) Similar to previous years, it is expected that the recurrent funding provided by the Government in 2016-17 will cater for around 90 per cent of HA's operating expenditure. The resources provided by the Government to HA are made having regard to the overall operating expenditure of HA in the coming year and the need for the newly added and improved services.  HA will also mobilise its revenue reserve and redeploy its internal resources to implement various measures in order to meet the rising demand for hospital services and improve the quality of patient care.

     To cope with the ageing population and the increasing demand for healthcare services, HA will continue to enhance its services for the public. In 2016-17, the estimated total operating expenditure of HA is approximately $58 billion, representing an increase of around 4 per cent as compared to 2015-16.  HA's services have not been affected in any way by the change in the amount of Government funding in 2016-17.

 (3) HA attaches great importance to strengthening healthcare manpower to cope with the hospital workload. HA will implement a series of response measures during long holidays. Such measures include the Special Honorarium Scheme which encourages staff to return to work in public hospitals. Moreover, HA will deploy manpower as appropriate to meet the service needs. Facing manpower shortage in recent years, HA will not encourage its staff to offer consultations at private clinics.

(4) Since additional service demand is expected during the long Easter holiday, HA will strengthen the holiday general out-patient service. During the Easter holiday from March 25 to March 28, services of the 13 holiday general out-patient clinics will be enhanced with a view to augmenting the service capacity by about 30 per cent.

     The A&E departments of public hospitals will post information on holiday general out-patient and private clinics in the district. Members of the public may also call the following numbers or browse the following websites for the relevant information:

(a) HA Infoline: 2882 4866;
(b) Hong Kong Medical Association Medilink: 90000-222-322;
(c) Website of the Hong Kong Medical Association:; and
(d) Primary Care Directory of the Department of Health:, or download the Primary Care Directory mobile app.

     The A&E departments will issue special honorariums to enhance manpower during the Easter holiday. The waiting time is expected to be longer for semi-urgent and non-urgent patients, especially on the last two days of Easter holiday and on the first working day afterwards. HA appeals to the public for their understanding and co-operation.  HA also appeals to non-urgent patients to consider seeking consultations at general out-patient clinics or private clinics.

Ends/Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:45


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