Overseas expert sought amid service-cost fears

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 October, 1997, 12:00am

An overseas consultant will conduct a review of the healthcare system, the Secretary for Health and Welfare, Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching, said yesterday.

She said the consultant would study the interface between public and private hospitals, how primary and hospital care could be better integrated and other issues.

At present, the Government, through the Hospital Authority, provides heavily subsidised hospital care. Last year, the authority's hospitals were responsible for more than 92 per cent of hospital admissions.

The Department of Health also operates a network of general and specialist clinics.

However, Mrs Fok said there were concerns that the system might not be financially sustainable in the long term.

The overseas expert would help Hong Kong learn from other countries' experiences in reforming their healthcare systems and advise on a course of action for the SAR, she said.

Asked if the Government would consider more resources to increase nursing staff, Mrs Fok said a lump sum of $22 billion allocated to the statutory Hospital Authority was meant to be spent flexibly. 'We would not determine our budget by looking at a particular area,' she said.

'The Hospital Authority can make use of the money with maximum flexibility.' Mrs Fok added that demand changed in terms of time, hospital and ward.

The Hong Kong Public Doctors' Association yesterday placed advertisements in several Chinese-language newspapers apologising for the recent spate of medical blunders causing death or disability to patients.

Stating that public confidence in public hospitals and morale of nursing staff had been hit, it pledged to learn from experience and avoid future mistakes. Association chairman Dr Poon Tak-lun said the blunders were the results of manpower shortages, which should be rectified with more resources put into on-the-job training.

'The problem stemmed from a lack of long-term policy on medical financing,' said Dr Poon.

'The better the service at the public hospitals, the more demand they have to meet despite the fixed budget.' He welcomed the Government's plan to hire experts in the near future to look into financing and suggested that policies on medical insurance and charges levied on patients should be considered.