LCQ8: Hospital Authority staff training programmes

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


     It has been reported that the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Liaison Office) has earlier invited the Hospital Authority (HA) to recommend 30 young doctors to attend a one-week national studies programme for Hong Kong doctors (Programme) to be held in Beijing in April this year.  The participants invited are those junior doctors who have four to five years of service.  The participants are granted paid study leave by HA during their attendance at the Programme, with airfare to be subsidised by HA and their expenses on meals, accommodation and transportation in Beijing to be borne by the Liaison Office.  Some doctors of public hospitals have written to me expressing grave concern about the aforesaid arrangement.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the criteria based on which HA has approved paying the airfare for its staff members attending the Programme with public money and granting them paid study leave;

(2) as some doctors of public hospitals have pointed out that according to its human resources procedures, HA generally would subsidise its healthcare staff members to attend work-related exchanges or seminars only, whether it knows the direct relevance between the contents of the Programme and the frontline clinical duties of the junior doctors attending the Programme, as well as the benefits towards their clinical work to be gained by participating in the Programme;

(3) whether it knows the number of times since 1997 for which HA was invited by the Liaison Office to send its staff members to attend similar programmes, and the following information in respect of each programme: (i) purposes, (ii) venue, (iii) target participants, (iv) contents, (v) the details of sponsorships received, and (vi) the number of participants, broken down by their years of service and grade;

(4) whether it knows the details of the sponsored training programmes organised by HA jointly with local or overseas organisations in the past 10 years, and set out in a table the following information in respect of each programme: (i) the name of the programme, (ii) the year in which the programme was held, (iii) the name of the co-organiser(s), (iv) the amount of sponsorships received, (v) the number of participants, and (vi) the number of days of paid study leave granted by HA to those staff members; and

(5) as it has been reported that recently, there has been a surge in the utilisation of public hospital services and an acute shortage of healthcare manpower (e.g. the waiting time for semi-urgent and non-urgent patients at the accident and emergency departments is as long as 10-odd hours, and the inpatient bed occupancy rates of the medical wards of some public hospitals have persistently stood at 130%), whether it knows if HA has considered the manpower situation of the departments concerned before making arrangements for its doctors to attend the Programme; whether HA will, in the light of the shortage of doctors and the substantial increase in workload, consider not to send doctors to attend programmes unrelated to their clinical duties again in future?



     My consolidated reply to the various parts of the question raised by the Dr Hon Leung Ka-lau relating to the participation of Hospital Authority (HA) staff in training programmes is as follows:

     The HA attaches great importance to providing comprehensive training and development opportunities for its staff of all grades and levels and hence clinical and non-clinical-related training and exchange visits are arranged for them from time to time.  Such training covers a variety of areas, including development of professional specialties, quality management, development and planning of healthcare services around the world and general self-management.  Generally speaking, for healthcare professionals, the HA provides them with training opportunities not only about clinical knowledge and skills, but also a variety of training in different areas including leadership, management and communication skills.  

     The HA has an established mechanism for providing training assistance, e.g. training subsidy or study leave, to its staff on training and exchange visits.  When considering approval for training assistance, the HA considers factors including the relationship between the training and career development of the staff and if the training is for the benefit of services for patients.

     Apart from using its own resources to support staff training, the HA also accepts invitations and sponsorship from various organisations to enable its staff to attend local or overseas training/academic exchanges, study programmes, academic conferences/seminars, or field visits and workshops.  The HA has organised staff training programmes in collaboration with other organisations or by accepting their sponsorship.  For example, the HA's training partners in recent years include the Ministry of Health of Singapore, Hospital for Sick Children of Canada, Australian Council on Healthcare Standards, International Society for Quality in Healthcare, International Hospital Federation, Health Information and Management Systems Society in Singapore, overseas and local universities, Hong Kong Academy of Medicine and various specialist groups.  An exhaustive list is not available because of the large number of training programmes and the volume of related information.

    Sponsorship may be offered in various ways and the level of sponsorship received by staff will depend on the modes (local or overseas), duration and venues of the training courses concerned.  The sponsorship may take the form of air passage, accommodation and course fees, subject to the HA's approval according to its guidelines on "Acceptance of Advantages, Entertainment and Sponsorship".  General criteria for considering the acceptance of sponsorship include that acceptance of sponsorship will not give rise to actual or perceived conflict of interest and will not cause disrepute to the HA, whether the sponsorship is for the benefit of services for patients and the amount of sponsorship is reasonable.

     The Course on National Affairs for Hong Kong Professionals (Course) is organised by the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and provided by the Chinese Academy of Governance.  The HA is an invited participant, not a co-organiser of the Course.  Over the years, the HA has accepted invitations to nominate its staff to attend the Course, and the nominations are made taking into account the work situation of its staff.  In the past decade, almost 200 HA staff members attended the Course.  They comprise administrative and management staff, healthcare personnel of various grades, including medical staff (Chief of Service, Consultant, Associate Consultant and Resident), nursing staff (Senior Nursing Officer, Department Operation Manager and Ward Manager) and allied health professionals of different disciplines.  

    The Course, which lasts for one week, is held in Mainland cities, for example, Shanghai or Beijing.  Lectures are given by Mainland scholars and officials on national systems and policies in different areas, e.g. healthcare reform.  Visits to healthcare institutions in the Mainland are also arranged.  The organising party is responsible for the meal/ accommodation, local transport and course fee.  Under the HA's existing human resources policy, before accepting any sponsorship including training-related subsidies from other institutions, its staff must report the case through the existing mechanism and obtain their supervisors' approval.

     The HA received an invitation to take part in the Course originally scheduled for April 2016 which was later rescheduled to mid-May.  As the target participants for the Course are professionals in the healthcare sector, the HA has invited its clusters to nominate doctors interested in the Course to attend subject to their workload and availability.  With nominations from the clusters, a total of 27 HA staff members are nominated to attend the Course.  Of these HA staff, six are Residents and others include Chiefs of Service, Consultants, Associate Consultants, nursing and allied health professionals, and executive.  Their participation in the Course is on a voluntary basis and is subject to confirmation by their respective departments, Hospital Chief Executives and Cluster Chief Executives that the work and service will not be so affected.

Ends/Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:45