Much still to do, health chief admits

Looking back over his first year into the job, Ko Wing-man says progress has been mixed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 5:14am

The health minister has given a modest review of his performance in the past year, saying the Hospital Authority had made progress in some areas but more needed to be done

Dr Ko Wing-man said one of his priorities when he took up the job was to shorten patients' wait time at public hospitals, but it remained too long.

"From a patient's point of view, the waiting time is certainly unsatisfactory," he said. "We know the Hospital Authority has staffing shortages, and we have been trying to retain and increase manpower. We are working in this direction."

The number of retired doctors returning to work part time had doubled and doctors were now offered overtime pay. "It takes a year or longer to see the results," Ko said.

Another long-standing target is to review the Hospital Authority's operations.

Almost no progress was seen in the past year, but a committee tasked with launching the review would be set up in the next few weeks, he said. One of its remits would be to examine how manpower was distributed in different hospital groupings and the co-ordination among them.

Regarding the successor to authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk, whose term ends this year, Ko denied the job would automatically go to an ally of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. But Executive Council members - Leung's top advisers - were among possible candidates.

Ko appears to be slowing expansion of the private medical sector. Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's former administration had set aside four sites for new private hospitals as part of turning the medical services industry into one of the city's six industry pillars. But Leung removed it from the list, and three of those sites remain untouched.

Ko said he would not rule out the possibility the sites would be handed over to other government bureaus that had a more urgent need for expansion.

"I will still work on increasing the capacity of private hospitals, but I need to consider it carefully before releasing the sites," he said.

He expected that the number of private hospital beds would increase 30 to 40 per cent in the next five to 10 years due to expansion of existing facilities and the addition of new ones.

Ko cautioned that the medical sector required long-term planning.