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LCQ15: Medical laboratory technologists in Hong Kong
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     Following is a question by the Professor Hon Joseph Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (May 18):

Question:

     Hong Kong has experienced several major outbreaks of infectious diseases in recent years.  Some healthcare professionals have pointed out that medical laboratory tests can assist them in expeditiously identifying the infectious agents, which facilitates their formulation of measures to combat the epidemics and delivery of effective treatment to patients.  They have also pointed out that in recent years, the workloads of both public and private medical laboratories have increased substantially.  Regarding the manpower situation of medical laboratory work, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the number and the scope of duties of registered medical laboratory technologists at present, with a breakdown by rank;

(2) whether it knows the respective numbers of medical laboratory technologists of various ranks working in the Department of Health (DH), public hospitals, private hospitals and private laboratories at present;

(3) whether it knows the total number of medical laboratory tests conducted by public hospitals and DH, and the average daily number of laboratory tests handled by each laboratory technologist, in each of the past three years; and

(4) apart from the increase of 54 places in the degree programmes in medical laboratory science in the 2016/17 to 2018/19 triennium, whether the authorities have plans to further increase the number of relevant training places, so as to meet the increasing demand for medical laboratory services; if they do, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

(1) Pursuant to section 3 of the Medical Laboratory Technologists (Registration and Disciplinary Procedure) Regulations (Regulations) (Cap. 359A), the register of medical laboratory technologists in Hong Kong shall be divided into three parts, namely Part I (holders of the qualifications as prescribed in section 5 of the Regulations with not less than three years of post-qualification recognised experience (two years of which should be gained in Hong Kong)), Part II (holders of the qualifications as prescribed in section 5 of the Regulations) and Part III (holders of a certificate of provisional registration).  A registered medical laboratory technologist shall be entered in any one part of the register according to the qualifications and experience stipulated in section 5 of the Regulations.  As at May 1, 2016, the number of registered medical laboratory technologists in different parts of the register is set out in Annex 1.

     In accordance with the Supplementary Medical Professions Ordinance (Cap. 359), a registered medical laboratory technologist in Hong Kong is a person trained in the practice of processing clinical, medical, legal, public health or veterinary specimens for the sole purpose of making and reporting on analysis or examination in vitro and the processing of all matters for human and animal consumption for the sole purpose of making and reporting on analysis or examination in vitro.

(2) We do not have information on medical laboratory technologists working in private hospitals and private laboratories by ranks.  The number of medical laboratory technologists working in the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority (HA) are set out in Annex 2.

(3) In the past three years, the number of medical laboratory tests performed by DH was about 6.1 million a year.  

     The medical laboratory service workload data in HA in the past three years is set out in Annex 3.

     HA regularly assesses its workload and manpower requirements and flexibly deploys its staff having regard to the service and operational needs.  To address the surge in medical laboratory service demand attributed to the infectious disease outbreak or unforeseen incident, HA would deploy additional manpower to meet the service needs.  For the increase in service growth and development, HA would allocate additional resources through the annual planning and resource allocation process.

(4) The Government has increased the number of University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded degree places in medical laboratory science from 32 to 44 for the 2012/13 triennium.  To meet the anticipated demand, the Government has further increased the number of UGC-funded degree places in medical laboratory science by 10 to 54 for the 2016/17 íV 2018/19 triennium.

     The Government and UGC conduct academic planning for UGC-funded institutions on a triennial basis.  In the long run, the Food and Health Bureau will, with due regard to the prevailing manpower situation of medical laboratory technologists, continue to liaise with the Education Bureau and UGC in order to set manpower requirement targets for each academic planning cycle according to actual demand and availability of resources.

     In response to the challenges of an ageing population and increasing demand for healthcare services with higher expectations, the Government has set up a steering committee to conduct a strategic review on healthcare manpower planning and professional development in Hong Kong.  The Review aims to make recommendations that would better enable us to meet the projected demand for healthcare professionals (including medical laboratory technologists) as well as foster professional development with a view to ensuring the healthy and sustainable development of our healthcare system.  We expect that the Review will be completed in mid-2016.  The Government will publish the report and take forward the recommendations as appropriate upon completion of the Review.

Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:39

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