Hospital Authority strengthens patient transfer arrangement with private hospitals

     The current COVID-19 epidemic situation is severe. The Government expects that the number of daily new cases will remain high in the short term, and the number of patients admitted to public hospitals will continue to rise subsequently. The Hospital Authority (HA) has strengthened the collaboration with private hospitals to transfer more patients to private hospitals to continue their treatment, with a view to maintaining the operation of the public healthcare system. The Secretary for Health, Professor Lo Chung-mau, also appeals to suitable HA patients for accepting the transfer arrangement to private hospitals.

     At present, the non-emergency services at the HA has been reduced by 30 per cent due to the epidemic situation. The HA needs to transfer more suitable patients to private hospitals, so as to avoid further adjustment in the scale of its non-emergency services as far as practicable which will inevitably result in a delay of treatment for various patients.
     Following an earlier meeting between Professor Lo and the representatives of the Hong Kong Private Hospitals Association, as well as the recent close communication between the HA and private hospitals, the total number of hospital beds provided by all 13 private hospitals has increased from 364 at the initial stage to at least 410 so far (see Annex). The number of beds can be gradually brought up to around 1 000 depending on the actual demand. For the period from July 29 to September 6, a total of 920 hospitalised patients have been transferred to the 13 private hospitals for treatment.
     Among all, Hong Kong Adventist Hospital – Tsuen Wan, St. Paul's Hospital and St. Teresa's Hospital have allocated more hospital beds, while CUHK Medical Centre planned to provide eight additional hospital beds next week for receiving COVID-19 patients. The utilisation of hospital beds in various private hospitals has also improved significantly. As for individual private hospitals with lower utilisation of hospital beds for now, the HA will continue to maintain communication with the relevant management teams to make better use of the precious hospital bed resources as far as possible.

     Professor Lo said, "I am pleased to know that many private hospitals have successively increased the number of beds for receiving more HA patients. Nonetheless, we have noticed that, despite the recent strengthened explanatory works by the HA and the willingness of private hospitals to provide treatment, nearly a quarter of patients and their family still refuse to accept the transfer arrangement. Such situation is concerning."
     "Maintaining the operation of the public healthcare system is a key anti-epidemic strategy, with releasing public hospital beds as one of the means to allow the HA to focus its resources in combating the severe epidemic situation more effectively. I am confident that private hospitals will serve the transferred HA patients with the same professionalism as the public hospitals, and once again call on patients and their family members to accept the transfer arrangement and actively co-operate with our local healthcare professionals who are making their best efforts in fighting the epidemic at this critical juncture."

     The HA reiterated that public hospitals will conduct a professional evaluation to ensure that a patient is suitable for transfer to private hospitals before making the arrangement. Patients only need to pay at a level equivalent to the charges of HA services for their stay at the private hospitals, and those who are eligible for medical fee waiver will still be able to enjoy such waiver as in the case of using HA services.

     The Government will continue to closely monitor the transfer arrangement of HA patients to private hospitals, strive to maintain the public healthcare system, and safeguard public health under the principle of protecting citizens' lives. Subject to the epidemic situation and its actual demand, the HA will consider utilising more private hospital beds.

Ends/Wednesday, September 7, 2022
Issued at HKT 21:37