Public hospitals struggle to cope with ageing population

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2012, 2:26am


Hong Kong citizens who fall sick have a number of options through the Hospital Authority. They can still visit a government-run outpatient clinic and pay HK$100. However, they will probably fail to make an appointment through the phone recording system as the service cannot cope with patient demand.

The other option is to visit an accident and emergency ward of a public hospital where they do not have to book to see a doctor. However, they will have to wait for hours to get a consultation that takes a few minutes.

It is obvious that, with an ageing population, our public health system is under enormous pressure. We do not have sufficient staff to deal with the number of patients and some measures must be implemented to identify and tackle these problems. The HK$100 consultation fee in accident and emergency wards in public hospitals should be raised. This is much cheaper than the fee at a private clinic, which generally costs HK$200.

If the fee was raised, it would hopefully deter people from seeking treatment at the public hospital if their illness was not an emergency and going instead to a private clinic. Also, given the high levels of inflation in recent years, it makes sense to increase fees.

Some people might argue that this would discriminate against the poor in society. But surely there must be some provision for them to get help with medical fees under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme.

They would presumably be entitled to a subsidy whenever they consulted a public doctor.

The government needs to introduce concrete steps to reform the public health system. The most important initiative must be to ensure that all citizens are enrolled in some form of medical insurance scheme.

W.H. Chan, Kwun Tong