HK$40m scheme to get thousands off waiting list for cataract surgery

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


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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 patients 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.

Under the programme, the private ophthalmologists will provide one pre-operative assessment, the surgery and two post-operative checks for each patient.

Patients pay about HK$1,600 for the surgery at public hospitals, compared with private-sector charges that range from HK$10,000 to HK$30,000, depending on the ophthalmologist.

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

'In Hong Kong, we have 104 private ophthalmologists,' Dr Chow said.

'The Hospital Authority has only 84 ophthalmologists, but they are serving 90 per cent of the cataract patients,' he noted.