I refer to the letter by David Ollerearnshaw ("Long wait for cataract op unacceptable", July 10) and would like to clarify the cataract surgery waiting time situation in public hospitals.
Since 2009, the Hospital Authority has had a prioritisation system for cataract surgeries to ensure patients in need of urgent intervention are treated with priority. Under the triage system, referrals for surgery are screened by an ophthalmologist for classification into priority 1 (urgent cases with poor vision), priority 2 (early cases, such as those with occupational needs), and routine (non-urgent cases). The authority's targets are to carry out surgery for priority 1 patients within two months, and for priority 2 patients within 12 months.
Over the past few years, the authority has imposed a series of measures to shorten waiting time for cataract surgeries. To start with, we have increased our throughput by providing additional operation sessions during after-office hours and over weekends.
We have also encouraged and facilitated cross-cluster referrals of patients to alleviate the problem. Further, the authority launched a public-private partnership programme, known as the Cataract Surgeries Programme, in 2008. Patients on the waiting list were invited to undertake surgery in the private sector.
These patients will be provided with a fixed subsidy of HK$5,000, and themselves contribute a co-payment of no more than HK$8,000. To meet the escalating demand for such a service, the authority established two cataract centres at hospitals in west Hong Kong and Kowloon East in 2009 and 2011 respectively. These centres adopt a model under which there are designated staff to conduct operations in state-of-the-art facilities under ambulatory setting.
With these measures I have outlined, the annual throughput of cataract surgeries has increased by 65 per cent from 17,163 in 2007-08 to 28,245 in 2012-13. The notional waiting time, which is the projected waiting time for cataract surgery, has shortened from 127 months in 2008 to between seven to 21 months as of March this year.
To further enhance transparency and public accountability, in April we started public reporting of cataract surgery waiting times on the authority's website.
We appreciate the concern of your correspondent over the authority's cataract surgery waiting time, and we shall continue to improve our service to serve the needs of the people of Hong Kong.
Dr Alexander Chiu, chief manager (quality and standards), Hospital Authority