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  • Sep 21, 2014
  • Updated: 7:31pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

'Locals only' policies must not compromise economic freedom

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2012, 9:27am

The role of our private hospitals appears to change according to governments' preferences and social sentiment. Five years ago, medical services were deemed by the then chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, to be one of the pillar industries that could bring Hong Kong's economy to new heights. But his successor, Leung Chun-ying, apparently thinks otherwise. The hospital business boom, riding on the influx of mainland mothers giving birth here, prompted a shift in policy for private health care.

In a recent media interview, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man made it clear that the new government did not see private health care services as a pillar industry. Politically, he is not obliged to continue the policies of the previous administration. But there is cause for concern when the role of private hospitals is being redefined in such a way that our image as a free and open city will be undermined.

The health chief has expressed the hope that private hospitals will focus on serving local people and help ease the burden on the public health system. Although he said both public and private health services need to develop, serving foreigners should only be an added bonus for when private hospitals have excess capacity.

The government is right to put the interests of its people first. As far as the use of public resources is concerned, priorities must be given to local citizens. It is not unusual to see restrictions imposed on land granted at token cost. Some may even argue that private hospitals should serve locals first. But private hospitals are self-financed. Like other private enterprises, they should be allowed to operate on commercially viable principles. Their business has already been seriously affected by Leung's initiative to halt the influx of mainland mothers with a zero birth quota for next year. The lukewarm response to the two sites offered for new private hospitals underlines the market's concern over excessive regulation.

There is nothing wrong with private hospitals catering to patients who can afford to pay more, regardless of whether they are locals or outsiders. Any attempt to redefine their role may affect their business and must be undertaken with great care.

The idea of barring non-locals from buying certain flats has already aroused concerns about whether the city still adheres to its core beliefs in freedom and openness. It will be a dangerous step if the locals-only mindset extends to health care.

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ykbc
What private hospitals are actually selling mainland mothers is not their health care service, but the right of abode in Hong Kong and all the welfare and benefits that come with it. If they at long last realise they could no longer sell what should be the property of all Hong Kong people and cry foul awfully, so be it.
joyalsofi
"There is nothing wrong with private hospitals catering to patients who can afford to pay more, regardless of whether they are locals or outsiders. Any attempt to redefine their role may affect their business and must be undertaken with great care."
There is a place and need for private hospitals and health care because the public hospitals are chronically and intentionally underfunded. Add to that the proposals to grant large subsidies for purchases of private insurance. It is clear that private health care exists at the expense of the public. Health care is a basic right and the Hospital Authority should be funded so as to ensure sufficient, well-trained, front-line health care workers so that the care provided isn't compromised.
rpasea
If there is a shortage of housing, it is at the lower end of the economic ladder. The Kai Tak site should be developed for rental housing so we can eliminate cage homes and illegally subdivided flats. Limiting sale to HK residents for 30 years will be impractical as ways will be found to circumvent the rules creating a black market for these flats.
 
 
 
 
 

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