• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 1:41am
NewsHong Kong
HEALTH

21,000 hospital patients wait three years for specialist care

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 3:05am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 8:41am

More than 21,000 patients had waited three years before receiving specialist treatment at the city's overburdened and understaffed public hospitals last year, with more than 1,000 waiting even longer.

But a Hospital Authority report submitted to the Legislative Council shows that the number of patients queueing for specialist care actually dropped from 2012, despite 680,000 more patients seeking care.

Dr Alexander Chiu, the authority’s chief manager for quality and standards, said there was a “serious irregularity” in queuing times at different hospitals, which he said “should be better managed”.

“To help reduce the differences, the authority has introduced a cross-cluster referral mechanism,” Chiu told the South China Morning Post.

“It gives suitable patients the option of attending clinics in other clusters that have shorter waiting times.”

The report showed that last year 21,076 patients had waited three years before they were able to see a specialist.

This was a decline of 18 per cent from 2012, while 1,016 waited more than three years, down 47 per cent.

In 2012, the numbers were 25,795 and 1,924.

Most of the longest waits were concentrated in two districts, New Territories East and Kowloon East.

Patients requiring specialist ophthalmology care in these two areas faced a wait of at least three years, while the wait at the same department elsewhere was only one year.

Chiu said there was a slight improvement in waiting times but it was undesirable that so many patients had to wait for so long.

He said the massive demand for specialist treatment was the major reason for the queuing problem.

The 680,000 new patients lining up for specialist care last year meant that the number had grown almost 10 per cent in the past three years, Chiu said.

Meanwhile, the increase in capacity was trailing way behind.

Many patients attending specialist clinics had minor conditions that could be treated by family doctors, said Chiu.

He cited an authority audit that revealed about 10 per cent of new cases for orthopaedic services suffered from minor lower back pain.

Some new emerging sub-specialisations, such as paediatric dermatology and treatment for infertility, were also seeing long queues.

“A medical manpower shortage remains a crucial factor that limits service capacity,” Chiu said, adding that the shortage would not be eased until next year, when more doctors would be graduating.

But he said the shortage was expected to get worse over time with a growing population and more elderly people to treat.

In response to the demand, the authority has set up clinics involving family medicine and major specialties, which allow patients to be assessed earlier and provide timely specialist care for patients most in need.

About HK$50 million had been allocated to improve the waiting times at specialist clinics in 2014-15, Chiu said.

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14

This article is now closed to comments

rpasea
It comes down to govt.'s priorities: an unused cruise terminal in the middle of nowhere, a high speed rail from the middle of nowhere to nowhere, a bridge to/from nowhere for vehicles to come here and further congest streets, a mega agents fund/createHK fund to line the pockets of well connected insiders....ah, but to take care of our sick and elderly? Johnny Blogger (aka Tsang) says to do so will push us into bankruptcy. Sad, sad, sad when HK has the wealth to be a truly great place to live and not just the crony capital of the world.
whoaman
Let Mr. John middle class Tsang line up for 3 years to see a specialist doctor for his heart condition (the one that cropped up when Long Hair threw money at him...), then amend the budget for more fund for the HA.
ianson
Utterly shameful, Hong Kong being one of the richest places on Earth.
joyalsofi
"21,000 hospital patients wait three years for specialist care" Yet another inaccurate headline. These may be patients of the Hospital Authority, but they are not 'hospital patients' waiting in the hospital for three years. They are clinic patients who wait at home until they can see the specialist. In a recent visit, myself, a notice on the wall indicated that there was a wait for close to three years for an appointment with a cardiac specialist.
The government's solution is to starve the HA and siphon money into the private sector rather than addressing the inadequacies by fully funding the HA or by enacting a system of universal health care, similar to those in operation in countries whose citizens enjoy the highest positive health.
likingming
and the coming third runway that is costlier than the terminal + high speed rail + bridge + mega funds + ......
Sugelanren
Time to remove the charitable status from many of the private hospitals. They are far from charitable and mainly serve the rich. Whilst taking staff away from the public services.
caractacus
Cancer cases, after waiting many months to see a specialist, are almost all dead by that time.
oxymoron14.
What defines the worth of life in a given country is determined by the seriousness of Medicare offered by the government. I won't even want to talk about China because if you don't have the money the hospital would leave you for dead.
Hong Kong, despite the flooding of the coffer, neglects and do so little to improve such horrendous stigma and the medical system literally disgust me to the core. Perhaps I am privileged to have my medical covered both in the US and Canada, I am fortunate but yet feel sorry for the this place so called financial hub, yada yada and everything is just smoke and mirror.
BabyMan
Great idea. Stat wig The money mill in Happy Valley. Force them to take the overflow for ophthalmology consults since the owner brags about how much charity work for eye care they do.
BabyMan
You don't know the that what you said is the tip of the iceberg of the politics surrounding medical care in Hong Kong. It is not just a money problem or doctor shortage. The medical community by and large is toxic here.

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