Hospitals face funds shake-up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2007, 12:00am

The Hospital Authority may adopt an internal resources allocation system under which 'money will follow the patient' as early as next year, and will consider contracting out some services to the private sector.

Authority chief executive Shane Solomon said yesterday the 'historical rollover resource allocation' method - which allocated funds to hospital clusters based mainly on their previous budgets and district populations - suffered from 'unfairness and poor incentives for efficiency'.

In his opening speech at the Hospital Authority Convention 2007 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre, Mr Solomon said the authority should fund the services actually delivered by the staff.

Under the plan, a hospital's funding would be increased to employ more staff if its workload had increased. Any one service would be funded at the same rate regardless of which hospital provided it.

'The new system needs to be careful about the incentives it creates,' Mr Solomon said, adding that the authority wanted to encourage substituting overnight stays with day surgery and treatment, and reward hospitals for efficient and modern practices.

Having established the 'HA internal cost or price' for a service, the authority would then be in a position to decide whether it should contract the private sector to deliver some services 'either because the HA does not have the capacity or because the private sector may be more efficient'.

The authority's seven clusters will first draft two budgets, one on the traditional resource allocation model and one on the proposed one, for the next financial year. The authority will then discuss whether the new model should be adopted.

Mr Solomon added that the authority would fast-track the trial scheme of sharing electronic patient records between the public and the private sectors, which is expected to be implemented within five years.

Health, Welfare and Food Bureau Secretary York Chow Yat-ngok told the convention the government would continue to strengthen the public-private partnership and develop a territory-wide electronic health-care record system.

He admitted that the existing public-private imbalance was significant, because of price differentials.

The government will consult the public later this year about the long-term issues of health-care financing and service reform, he said.

Mr Solomon said the authority's initiatives to boost staff morale included reducing maximum continuous shift times for doctors, addressing nurses' workloads and proposing new career structures for the key professional groups.

Medical sector lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki welcomed the new concept for allocating resources, saying the existing method was not fair and did not address patient activities.