Scheme to aid cataract patients

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 February, 2008, 12:00am

Thousands of patients waiting for cataract operations will be offered a HK$5,000 subsidy to have their cases dealt with by private ophthalmologists because of the three-year wait at public hospitals.

The subsidy will be paid directly to their doctors.

The government has provided HK$40 million to the Hospital Authority for the programme.

Seventy private ophthalmologists have joined the programme, under which patients will pay a maximum of HK$8,000.

The authority expects that more than 7,000 patients will benefit from the programme, which will last for about 18 months.

The first patients will come from about 4,000 people who have been on the waiting list for routine cataract surgery since June 2004.

Patients receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance will be exempt from payment.

Cheung Wai-lun, the Hospital Authority's director for cluster services, said he expected the average waiting time at public hospitals could be shortened by 10 per cent as a result of the programme.

He said the average wait for cataract surgery was about three years and the total number of patients on the waiting list at the end of December was 50,731.

Public hospitals perform about 17,000 cataract operations a year, while there are about 21,000 projected new cases per year.

'Some patients might need to wait for even six years for surgery at a public hospital,' Dr Cheung said.

Hong Kong Association of Private Eye Surgeons president Chow Pak-chin said private ophthalmologists were looking forward to helping the authority with the backlog of cataract cases.