Paper on health-care financing due to be released soon

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2007, 12:00am

The government will release its long-awaited consultation paper on health-care financing by the middle of January, Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok said yesterday.

He said the document might be released earlier - possibly even next month - but noted that Christmas festivities could hinder the public consultation. It would be ready by mid-January at the latest.

Kwok Ka-ki, the legislator representing the medical sector, said the government should make its proposals available to the public as soon as possible. 'We have been waiting [for the proposals] for a very long time, and we need the information in order to discuss it,' he said.

Dr Chow made his remarks after the sixth joint meeting for senior health officials from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau. During the meeting, the mainland's minister of health, Chen Zhu , discussed policies on preventing infectious diseases with Hong Kong and Macau officials. The Macau delegation was led by Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Fernando Chui Sai-on.

Dr Chow said officials and experts from the three jurisdictions would form an expert panel, early next year to boost research and response plans for pandemics.

Meanwhile, the second cross-border infectious-disease drill between Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland will be held at the end of this year, following the first drill last year. 'The avian flu risk remains high. We have to remain vigilant,' Dr Chow said.

Asked about a recent press report claiming the government had lowered the required medical contribution under the proposed financial reforms to between 1 and 2 per cent of income, Dr Chow said no final decision had been made.

'It [the report] is not necessarily accurate. And I have no idea where the report came from,' he said. He stressed that reforms in the quality of services and the medical system itself were just as important as the financing measures.