LCQ21: Rehabilitation services for employees with work-related injuries

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Kin-por and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (May 2):
     It is learnt that since 2011, the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology of The Chinese University of Hong Kong has run a Multidisciplinary Orthopaedics Rehabilitation Empowerment (MORE) programme under the sponsorship of the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers.  Through early referrals and rehabilitation interventions, the MORE programme enables patients with orthopaedic problems arising from work-related injuries to achieve maximum rehabilitation and return to work as early as possible.  The relevant data show that employees with work-related injuries who had joined the MORE programme took shorter periods of sick leave before they returned to work and their return-to-work percentages were also higher as compared with other employees with work-related injuries.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1)  of the respective numbers of (i) work injury incidents and (ii) confirmed cases of occupational diseases, reported in each of the past five years, with a breakdown by trade; and

(2)  whether it will consider, by setting up an inter-departmental task force and making reference to the MORE programme, promoting in Hong Kong the full introduction of orthopaedic rehabilitation services comprising early referrals and rehabilitation interventions, with a view to enabling patients with orthopaedic problems arising from work-related injuries and occupational diseases to recover and return to work as early as possible; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that and the other measures in place to help such employees to recover and return to work as early as possible?

     My reply to the question raised by the Member is as follows:
(1) (i) From 2013 to 2017, the number of employees' compensation claims reported under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance (ECO) and received by the Labour Department (LD) in each year is provided below:
Duration of incapacitation of employees 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Not more than three days 16 096 15 531 14 994 15 134 14 645
More than three days* 39 072 38 386 36 923 36 420 36 463
Total 55 168 53 917 51 917 51 554 51 108
* Figures include fatal cases.
      (ii) The number of confirmed cases of occupational diseases from 2013 to 2017 is provided below:
  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Confirmed Cases of Occupational Diseases 231 267 256 334 304
     The LD does not keep statistics on compensation claims and confirmed cases of occupational diseases with a breakdown by type of work.
(2) The LD recognises that rehabilitation services are very important to ensure the recovery and early return to work of employees injured at work.
     At present, for employees who sustain work injuries or suffer from occupational diseases prescribed by the ECO, hospitals and clinics under the Hospital Authority (HA) provide integrated treatment and rehabilitation services which include, among other things, specialist treatment, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
     The occupational health clinics of LD provide medical treatment and occupational health counselling to employees who have sustained injuries at work or contracted occupational diseases.  Besides, subject to the patients' clinical conditions and needs, the occupational health doctors in the clinics will refer the patients to hospitals and clinics under HA for rehabilitation treatment to facilitate their early recovery from the injury.  The occupational health doctors will also give advice to the patients on resumption of work.  Depending on considerations including patients' rehabilitation progress, the occupational health doctors will provide recommendations to the employers on relevant work adjustments to facilitate the patients' gradual return to work.
     In addition, the insurance industry has launched the Voluntary Rehabilitation Programme (VRP) since March 2003 to provide injured employees with an additional channel to receive free rehabilitation services in the private sector through the insurers' arrangements to facilitate their speedy recovery and early return to work under safe circumstances.  Under VRP, the participating insurers identify appropriate cases, initiate contacts with the injured employees and invite them to participate in the programme on a voluntary basis.  Injured employees can decide on their own whether to accept the insurers' invitation or not and participation in VRP will not affect their rights and benefits under ECO.
     The LD has been monitoring whether the above-mentioned work can provide appropriate rehabilitation services for employees injured at work.  The LD will also pay close attention to different modes of referral and rehabilitation for occupational injury cases with a view to promoting early recovery and return to work of the injured workers, and consult other government departments and relevant organisations when necessary.

Ends/Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Issued at HKT 11:10