Leaked health care report promised soon

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 January, 1999, 12:00am

The $7 million report on health-care financing will be published earlier than planned, a health official said yesterday.

Secretary for Health and Welfare Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching promised to publish the report by Harvard professor William Hsiao as soon as possible.

The report has already been leaked to the press.

The Government planned to publish Professor Hsiao's report in the middle of this year, along with its own proposals for reform.

Mrs Fok was pressed by legislators at a meeting of the health services panel who demanded an early release of the report to prevent speculation.

Dr Leong Che-hung, representing the medical constituency, described media speculation as 'the blind giving an account of an elephant'.

'Why don't you ease the worries of the public and clear misunderstandings by publishing the consultancy report in advance?' he asked.

One press report based on the findings said that private doctors in Hong Kong were the highest paid in the world, earning an average of more than $3 million a year.

The suggestion was ridiculed by doctors and the Inland Revenue Department has denied giving information on salaries to the consultant.

Democrat Michael Ho Mun-ka said: 'Someone might have leaked the report in order to test public opinion.' Mrs Fok declined to comment on the source and validity of the media reports but said consultants were not allowed to disclose details of studies.

'Professor Hsiao expressed his views in the form of academic exchange, which is very common practice and does not violate contract terms,' she said.

The consultant gave two seminars in December on health-care reform, during which he said the present system was inefficient.

He highlighted two structural weaknesses: an imbalance between the private and public systems and big differences in the quality of clinical care.

The report recommends a user-pays plan for health care in the light of rising spending.

About $31.4 billion is expected to be spent on health care this financial year and spending is expected to rise 50 per cent by 2010.

Health care is expected to make up 22 per cent of government spending by 2016.

Professor Hsiao's final report is due to be submitted to the Health and Welfare Bureau by the end of the month.