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LCQ3: Development of Chinese Medicine services
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (December 6):

     At present, there are 18 Chinese Medicine Centres for Training and Research (CMCs) in the territory, which are operated under a tripartite model involving the Hospital Authority, non-governmental organisations and local universities, providing Chinese medicine services to members of the public.  Some members of the public have pointed out that as such centres have to operate on a self-financing basis, their service charges are far higher than those for the publicly funded western medicine services in the public sector.  Regarding the development of Chinese medicine services, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective current average daily consultation quota, numbers of patient attendances and utilisation rates of the aforesaid 18 CMCs; whether it has assessed if the relevant services are sufficient to meet the demand; if it has assessed, of the outcome, and whether it will establish additional CMCs in response to local demand; if it will not, of the reasons for that;
(2) whether it will consider providing the 18 CMCs and the Chinese medicine hospital to be commissioned in the future with the same level of funding support as that for western medicine services, so as to relieve the financial burden of members of the public receiving Chinese medicine services and, by eliminating the fee gap, alleviate the pressure on western medicine services in the public sector; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) given that at present, Chinese and western medicine practitioners and pharmacists are required to undergo professional training and registration before they may practise, whether the authorities will establish professional training and registration systems for Chinese medicine dispensers; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     The Chief Executive has put forward a number of policy initiatives related to Chinese medicine in her Policy Address announced in October.  These include enhancing training for Chinese medicine practitioners to foster their professional development, reviewing the remuneration package and promotion opportunities for staff employed at all levels in the Chinese Medicine Centre for Training and Research (CMCTR) in the 18 districts with a view to attracting more talents to join the Chinese medicine sector and setting up a dedicated unit under the Food and Health Bureau (FHB) to oversee Chinese medicine development and assist in co-ordinating and implementing the strategies and measures for promoting the Chinese medicine development in Hong Kong.

     In consultation with the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority (HA), I provide a consolidated reply to the three parts of the question as follows:

(1) To promote the development of "evidence-based" Chinese medicine and provide training placements for graduates of local Chinese medicine bachelor degree programmes, the Government set up in phases one CMCTR in each of the 18 districts and the NGOs are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the CMCTRs (Note 1).    Currently, the 18 CMCTRs provide a total of 216 training places for graduates concerned.  Besides, CMCTRs serve as a platform to take forward the Integrated Chinese-Western Medicine Pilot Programme which enables patients of the HA to receive Chinese and Western medicine treatments at the same time.

     The services provided by the CMCTRs are not part of the regular services of the HA.  Currently, each CMCTR is required to provide no less than 60 000 consultations per year (Note 2).  In 2016, the total number of attendances at the 18 CMCTRs exceeded 1 160 000.  The Government considers that the CMCTR has effectively achieved its purposes.  Apart from the CMCTRs, there are a number of Chinese medicine clinics, run by NGOs and universities, providing reasonably-charged Chinese medicine services.  The Government does not have any plan to increase the service of CMCTRs.

(2) As mentioned above, the objectives of CMCTRs and the public general out-patient clinics under the HA are different.  Since the establishment of the first CMCTR in 2003, the standard fee for Chinese medicine general consultation service has been maintained at $120 (including consultation fee and two doses of Chinese medicines) without any change, while the fees for other Chinese medicine services (such as acupuncture and tui-na) provided by the CMCTRs are determined by the NGOs concerned.  Each CMCTR is required to set aside at least 20% of the attendance quota of the Chinese medicine general consultation service for recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, who can receive the service with the fee of $120 waived.  Besides, individual CMCTR run by NGO also provides discounts for different groups of people (such as the elderly).  We are of the view that the above-mentioned measures can help maintain a reasonable fee level for the public.

     As for the development of Chinese medicine hospital, the Government is actively planning for the construction of the first Chinese medicine hospital at a site in Tseung Kwan O.  This would be the major initiative for the development of Chinese medicine.  The Government is commissioning an international consultant through the HA to consult local stakeholders and overseas experts about the management models of the Chinese medicine hospital so as to help the Government formulate feasible and optimal operating conditions for the Chinese medicine hospital, thus facilitating the tendering exercise in future.  The Government will announce the positioning and the framework of development in major areas of the Chinese medicine hospital in the first half of 2018.  In deciding the positioning of the hospital, we need to consider the impact of various development models, including service positioning and financial arrangements, on the future development of the hospital.  This is to ensure the sustainable provision of quality Chinese medicine services by the hospital for the public and to promote the development of Chinese medicine in an effective manner.

(3) At present, no registration system has been established for persons who engage in the dispensing of Chinese herbal medicines (Chms) in Hong Kong.  However, according to the Chinese Medicine Ordinance (Cap. 549) and its subsidiary legislation, the Chinese Medicines Regulation (Cap. 549F), Chm retailers engaged in the dispensing of Chms should nominate a person responsible for supervision of the work (responsible person).  The retailers should also nominate not more than two deputies, one of whom shall act in the absence of that responsible person in accordance with the requirements specified in Schedule 1 of the Chinese Medicines Regulation (please refer to Annex for details).

     In addition to the above requirements, the Chinese Medicines Board under the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong has drawn up the Practising Guidelines for Retailers of Chinese Herbal Medicines to ensure that the persons engaged in the trade of Chinese medicines have the knowledge of Chms and their preparation.  The Guidelines also set out the criteria for the trade to fulfil with regard to the dispensing of Chms (including verification of prescriptions, preparation, cross-checking, packaging and dispatching medicines).

     The Chinese Medicine Unit to be set up under the FHB will widely consult the Chinese medicine sector, including the Chinese medicines industry, on the professional development of the sector, with a view to setting the course of development suitable for the industries concerned.

Note 1: The CMCTRs operate under a tripartite collaboration model involving the HA, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local universities offering undergraduate courses in Chinese medicine (i.e. the Hong Kong Baptist University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong).

Note 2: No less than 30 000 should be Chinese medicine general consultations and the remaining ones can be consultations on other Chinese medicine services such as acupuncture and tui-na.
Ends/Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:55
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