LCQ10: Medical benefits for civil service eligible persons

     Following is a question by the Hon Yung Hoi-yan and a written reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mrs Ingrid Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):
     Under the contracts of employment with civil servants, civil servants/pensioners and their eligible dependents (civil service eligible persons or CSEPs) are entitled to the medical benefits provided by the Government through the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority (HA). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the current utilisation rate of each of the six families clinics under the DH, and whether the utilisation rate of any of such clinics is close to saturation; if so, whether the time of operation of the clinics concerned will be extended; whether the Government will consider opening those clinics with lower utilisation rates for use by the general public;
(2) given that the HA's general outpatient clinics (GOPCs) provide serving civil servants with priority discs (priority discs), and the numbers of priority discs provided by different clinics are not the same and such numbers will be adjusted according to the actual circumstances on the day, whether it knows the criteria and factors for determining the numbers of priority discs;
(3) given that currently there are only three HA's GOPCs with a utilisation rate of priority discs of higher than 75 per cent while the overall utilisation rate is lower than 50 per cent, whether the Government has regularly reviewed the numbers of priority discs distributed so that medical resources can be better utilised; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(4) of the current waiting time for the specialist outpatient services provided to CSEPs; whether the Government has plans to expand the scope of such services, such as subsidising CSEPs to seek treatment at the HA's private clinics, so as to shorten the waiting time?
     Under the existing policy, save for the charges applicable to hospital maintenance, dentures and dental appliances as provided for in the Civil Service Regulations, civil service eligible persons (CSEPs) (i.e. serving/retired civil servants, their eligible dependants and other eligible persons) are entitled to free medical treatment and medical services, X-ray examinations and medicines provided by the Department of Health (DH) or the Hospital Authority (HA). In addition, if the attending the DH/HA doctor certifies that the prescribed drugs or equipment, etc. are necessary for the patient, and such items are not available in the DH/HA or are chargeable by the HA, CSEPs may apply to the Government for reimbursement of the expenses of the items concerned.
     Our reply to the different parts of the question is as follows:
(1) At present, the utilisation rates of the six families clinics under the DH are close to 100 per cent. CSEPs all along have a strong demand for the services of families clinics, so there is no room to open the clinics for use by the general public. In view of the current shortage of medical staff in Hong Kong generally, the DH cannot secure sufficient manpower to extend the time of operation of the families clinics.
(2) Of the 73 general outpatient clinics (GOPCs) currently under the HA, 65 have reserved priority discs for serving civil servants to enable them to receive medical treatment and return to work, if considered fit, as early as possible to maintain normal workforce. Under normal circumstances, the total daily number of priority discs is around 2 000 during normal day sessions. Having regard to geographical location, scale, manpower situation and past utilisation rate of clinics concerned, the number of priority discs varies amongst clinics. The HA may slightly adjust the daily service capacity having regard to manpower availability and operational needs, thus the number of priority discs provided may be slightly different.
(3) To enhance the priority discs arrangement in GOPCs and having regard to the utilisation of priority discs in various GOPCs, the HA has redistributed the priority discs from clinics with lower demand to those with higher demand with a view to better utilising the priority discs resources and enabling serving civil servants to receive appropriate medical services, without affecting the normal general outpatient services as far as practicable. Since 2015-16, the HA has conducted four rounds of redistribution of the priority discs of 11 GOPCs. HA will continue to closely monitor the utilisation of priority discs and redistribute them again if required.
(4) Specialist outpatient (SOP) services are provided by the 9H Specialist Clinic (9HSC) in Prince of Wales Hospital (PWH), L Block of Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and Saturday SOP Clinic (SSOPC) in Queen Mary Hospital (QMH) under the HA for the exclusive use of CSEPs. The median waiting time for new cases in major specialties in the second quarter of 2022 is set out at Annex.
     The proposal of subsidising CSEPs to seek medical treatment in private clinics (including those under the HA) is a major policy change that involves huge financial resources and hence must be carefully considered. We have no plan to change the policy at present.

Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:00