LCQ1: Healthcare services in New Territories West

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Kwok Ka-ki and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):
     In the past few years, the bed occupancy rates of several public hospitals under the New Territories West (NTW) Cluster were persistently above 90 per cent.  Among such hospitals, the wards in Tuen Mun Hospital (TMH) were even persistently close to fully occupied.  During the last peak season of influenza, the medical inpatient bed occupancy rate of TMH was as high as 128 per cent.  Some NTW residents have pointed out that the healthcare service needs of NTW residents have been neglected as shown by the facts that the NTW Cluster has been provided with less resources than other clusters, both in terms of the ratio of staff to beds and the ratio of population in the catchment districts to beds (population-to-bed ratio), and that there is no private hospitals in the catchment districts of the NTW Cluster.  Although the Government indicated in reply to my question last month that there would be 500 additional beds in the NTW Cluster upon the service expansion of Pok Oi Hospital, the completion of the improvement works of TMH and the commissioning of Tin Shui Wai Hospital which is under construction, the population-to-bed ratio of the NTW Cluster by that time will still be far lower than the territory-wide overall ratio.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that TMH is the only general hospital in the NTW Cluster which provides comprehensive healthcare services, but the improvement works for that hospital do not include any addition of wards, whether the authorities will expand TMH with a view to increasing the population-to-bed ratio of the cluster to a level comparable to that of the territory-wide overall ratio; if they will not, of the reasons for that; and

(2) whether it has projected the demand of Hong Kong people, particularly the NTW residents, for services of private hospitals in the coming five years; whether it has plans to set aside lands in NTW for constructing private hospitals; if it does, of the details, including the locations of the sites identified; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to the question relating to healthcare services in the New Territories West (NTW) is as follows:

(1) In planning for the provision of public healthcare services, the Hospital Authority (HA) will take into account a number of factors, including population growth, demographic changes, advancement in medical technology, manpower provision, organisation of services of the clusters and hospitals, service demand of local communities, etc. Considering the data on population projections published by the Census and Statistics Department, the HA conducts estimation of healthcare service need on a regular basis with a view to formulating the long-term development plan of public healthcare facilities in various districts.

     To enhance existing service quality and increase the overall service capacity, the Government has all along put in resources in the development of hardware and supporting facilities of the public healthcare system.  For the NTW Cluster, the new hospital constructed in Tin Shui Wai will commence operation in the first quarter of 2017 by phases. Tin Shui Wai Hospital will provide 300 hospital beds when it comes into full operation.  The Government and the HA have also commenced the project on extension of the Operating Theatre Block for Tuen Mun Hospital to meet the rising demand for healthcare services of the NTW Cluster.  In the long run, the HA will consider making use of the adjoining site of Tin Shui Wai Hospital for future expansion of the hospital to further increase service capacity.  At the same time, the Government has reserved a site at Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area for the construction of a new hospital to meet the growing healthcare demand of the population in NTW.

     In addition, the HA is developing a Clinical Services Plan (CSP) for the NTW Cluster, mapping out the roles and future service development directions of hospitals in the cluster with the participation of the various stakeholders in the cluster.  The HA will, having regard to the CSP, formulate a master development plan for Tuen Mun Hospital, which will form the blueprint for the future redevelopment or expansion of the Tuen Mun Hospital in order to meet the long-term healthcare needs in the NTW Cluster.  The CSP for the NTW Cluster is expected to be completed within 2017.
(2) The healthcare system of Hong Kong runs on a dual-track basis encompassing both public and private elements.  We will continue to maintain this system, which has served us well, and ensure that it can develop in a balanced and sustainable manner.  The private healthcare sector is an integral part of the dual-track system.  The Government's policy is to continue allocating resources to develop public hospitals, while at the same time promote and facilitate private healthcare development.  This will help redress the imbalance between the public and private sectors in hospital services, and increase the overall capacity of the healthcare system in Hong Kong to cope with the rising service demand.  

     To encourage the development of private hospitals, the Government supports the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) to develop the Chinese University of Hong Kong Medical Centre (CUHKMC).  The Finance Committee of the Legislative Council approved the provision of a loan of around $4 billion to CUHK in 2015 for developing this non-profit-making private teaching hospital.  Government approval was also given to the lease modification application at a nominal premium.  It is expected that the CUHKMC will provide 516 beds upon full commissioning.  A new private hospital to be developed at the Wong Chuk Hang site, which was awarded through open tender by the Government, is expected to come into operation in the first quarter of next year.  It will provide about 500 beds upon full commissioning.  Moreover, a number of existing private hospitals are undergoing or have plans for redevelopment or expansion.  It is expected that over 1 000 additional hospital beds will be provided by these private hospitals upon completion of the redevelopment or expansion projects.

     The Government has not assessed the public demand for private hospital services, nor does it have plan to reserve land in the NTW for the construction of private hospitals at this stage.  However, to ensure the sustainable development of the dual-track healthcare system, we will continue to implement policies to promote private healthcare development, and consider proposals from private organisations (including non-profit-making charitable institutions) to develop private hospitals on an individual basis.  We will assess the needs of the community in formulating the way forward for the overall development of private hospitals.

Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:30