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LCQ8: Promoting cross-border linkage of medical services between Guangdong and Hong Kong
     Following is a question by the Hon Kingsley Wong and a written reply by the Secretary for Health, Professor Lo Chung-mau, in the Legislative Council today (October 26):
     Currently, eligible elderly people of Hong Kong may use elderly health care vouchers (HCVs) to pay for the fees of outpatient medical care services provided by designated clinics/departments of the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital (HKU-SZH), and chronic disease patients of the Hospital Authority in Guangdong Province may also receive subsidised medical consultation at HKU-SZH through the Special Support Scheme. Regarding the promotion of cross-border linkage of medical services between Guangdong and Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has reviewed the operational workflow and effectiveness of the aforesaid two measures; if so, of the outcome; if not, whether it will conduct such a review; and
(2) given that the Overall Plan for Promoting Comprehensive Cooperation among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao by Further Deepening Opening-up in Nansha District of Guangzhou issued by the State Council in June this year proposes the establishment of a "white list" system for Mainland medical institutions in order to extend the scope of application of HCVs and allow medical institutions in Nansha under the white list to be included in Hong Kong's settlement unit for cross-border medical expenses, of the timetable of the study work, and whether it will consider extending the scope of the white list to cover medical institutions in the Shenzhen Municipality?
     The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (the SAR Government) has been following the principles of "complementarity and mutual benefits" to enhance the cooperation with various cities of the Greater Bay Area (GBA), on the premise that the development of the Mainland's healthcare system will be benefited and the development of Hong Kong's local healthcare service will not be compromised, so as to improve the policy measures that facilitate Hong Kong citizens to develop and reside in the Mainland.
     Having consulted the Hospital Authority, my reply to the question raised by the Hon Kingsley Wong is as follows:
(1) Since 2015, Elderly Health Care Vouchers (vouchers) can be used to pay for the fees of outpatient services provided by designated clinics/departments of the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital (HKU-SZH) to facilitate Hong Kong elderly persons who reside in Shenzhen or nearby areas to receive relevant services. The SAR Government has regularised the arrangement of using the vouchers at the HKU-SZH since June 2019 to provide greater assurance for Hong Kong elderly persons to use the vouchers at the HKU-SZH. As at end September 2022, over 11 000 eligible elderly persons had made use of the vouchers at the HKU-SZH, with an accumulated expenditure of about HK$38 million.
     The Department of Health (DH) has put in place procedures for checking and auditing voucher claims to ensure proper use and disbursement of public monies in handling reimbursements to healthcare service providers participating in the scheme at the HKU-SZH. The DH also uses the risk-based approach to monitor the transactions in HKU-SZH. The SAR Government will continue to review and monitor the effectiveness of the usage of vouchers at the pilot hospital and explore better ways of utilising the vouchers in subsidising Hong Kong citizens to access to more medical services.
     On the other hand, in order to take appropriate care of Hong Kong residents residing in the Mainland and unable to travel back and forth between Hong Kong and the Mainland for scheduled medical consultations as usual due to anti-epidemic measures, the SAR Government launched the Special Support Scheme in November 2020 and commissioned the HKU-SZH to provide subsidised follow-up consultations for designated chronic disease patients with scheduled appointments at specialist out-patient clinics or general out-patient clinics under the Hospital Authority. The SAR Government has conducted a mid-term review on the implementation of the Scheme in March 2021 to take stock of the progress made and feedback. The results showed that the Scheme was favourably received by the public and provided an important reference for the development of cross-border medical services in the future. In light of the epidemic development, the SAR Government has extended the Scheme for three times. As at the end of September 2022, about 47 000 consultation attendances were recorded at the HKU-SZH through the Scheme. The total expenditure incurred is approximately HK$27 million.
(2) The Government allows the use of vouchers at the HKU-SZH having regard to its adoption of the "Hong Kong management model" and its healthcare service quality and clinical governance structure being similar to those of Hong Kong, which makes it easier for Hong Kong elderly persons to adapt and accept. To further extend the scope of application of the vouchers to cover the medical institutions in Nansha (or in other Mainland cities), the Government has to carefully consider the issue of effective monitoring due to the different service standards of medical institutions in these places. The Government is also concerned by the monitoring of the proper use of vouchers under different monitoring and payment systems between Hong Kong and Mainland, as well as how to handle any possible professional malpractice, illegal act and overcharging. The Government will sum up our experience gained in the scheme at the HKU-SZH to consider the feasibility to further extend the scope of application of the vouchers to cover the medical institutions in the GBA, in particular those having adopted the "Hong Kong management model" and with healthcare service quality and clinical governance structure similar to the HKU-SZH.
     In fact, since 2020, Hong Kong residents (regardless of employment status) have been included in the scope of persons eligible for purchasing social insurance in the Mainland, and can participate in various basic social insurances, including medical insurance, in accordance with relevant provincial and municipal regulations. As more Hong Kong people choose to live and retire in the Mainland, subject to the requirements of their place of residence in the Mainland, the Chief Executive's 2022 Policy Address has announced that the SAR Government will study allowing Hong Kong people to use vouchers to pay the premiums of local medical insurance under the local social insurance plans, with the GBA as a start, to assist Hong Kong people in obtaining appropriate medical services through local medical insurance plans.
Ends/Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Issued at HKT 15:05
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