Lawmakers, doctors want fund reforms

Experts say management system for public hospitals limits fair allocation of resources, and performance needs monitoring more closely

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 4:14am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 4:49am

Public hospitals in the Kowloon West district received the highest amount of government funding, but had the second longest waiting times for simple eye operations, the latest data revealed.

According to a paper submitted by the Hospital Authority to the Legislative Council, it received HK$44.4 billion from the government last year, of which 23.2 per cent went to the Kowloon West grouping - double that received by some of the other six hospital groups.

But patients had to wait 20 months for cataract surgery, only slightly less than the 21-month wait in New Territories West.

Doctors and lawmakers said public hospitals needed better systems for resource allocation and monitoring of services.

"The cluster management system has resulted in an uneven distribution of resources and a mismatch of manpower," said lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki.

The Kowloon West group - which includes Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung and Kong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei - received the largest amount of resources.

The number of patients it served was also the highest of all seven groups, accounting for 24.4 per cent of a total of 3.1 million patients handled by the public health-care system last year.

Kowloon East, which includes the United Christian hospital in Kwun Tong, received the lowest level of recurrent funding at 10.7 per cent, while handling the fourth largest number, or 13.1 per cent, of all public patients. But it was more efficient in arranging cataract surgery for its patients, with a wait of 16 months.

Medical sector lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau said the current system could not guarantee patients better service even with an increase in funding to different groups. "The Hospital Authority headquarters should have a fairer and better way of monitoring the performance of different clusters after giving them the money," Leung said.

Kwok added there was a lack of co-operation between the hospital groups when they were competing for resources.

A government-appointed committee was formed by the health minister last year to review the management of public hospitals. One of the major reforms would be rezoning of the groups to achieve a fairer allocation of resources in terms of what percentage of the population was served by specific hospitals.

The authority said during funding allocations, it considered the amount of resources needed for the groups to sustain their baseline operations, and the additional resources needed to deliver new services and address specific gaps.