Diabetes scheme to be rolled out across Hong Kong

Despite poor turnout for trial run, authority hopes to ease burden on public hospitals by allowing hypertension and diabetes patients to visit private clinics at subsidised rates by 2019

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 11:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 11:31pm

As many as 35,000 patients suffering from hypertension and diabetes will be able to visit private clinics at subsidised rates by 2019, freeing space at the city’s public hospitals.

The Hospital Authority announced the expansion of the scheme despite a low participation rate in a pilot programme across three districts and doctors complaining they were not paid enough.

Just 15 per cent of eligible patients in Kwun Tong, Tuen Mun and Wong Tai Sin took part in the pilot, which began in July 2014. To qualify, patients with the illnesses needed to be considered stable and to have been attending public outpatient clinics for at least 12 months.

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Only 90 private doctors were willing to treat these patients – between 1/ 3 and ¼ of the total number in the three districts.

Announcing the authority’s plan to expand it citywide in phases over the next two to three years, deputising chief manager for medical grade Dr Leo Chan Ho-fung said the response was “encouraging and higher than expected”.

“We expect around 350 doctors will participate in the scheme when fully rolled out to all districts,” Chan said, allowing the patients more choice of clinics.

A spokesman for Hong Kong Patients’ Voices, a rights group, welcomed the move to expand the scheme, and said he hoped the authority would ensure enough doctors participated in all districts.

But Gabriel Choi Kin, chairman of the Medical Association, had previously said private doctors were not attracted to the scheme due to the low amount of subsidy they received compared with their usual charges.

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Under the scheme, the government pays eligible patients to receive up to 10 visits at private clinics per year for chronic and episodic illnesses, Chan said. Patients would then have to pay HK$45 per consultation – the same amount they paid at public clinic.

The subsidy paid to private doctors would increases from the HK$2,872 to HK$3,012 per patient per year starting from July 1. The fee will be further raised to HK$3,034 from October 1, when eight new types of medicine are added.

The list of medicines dispensed for free under the scheme will also be increased from 21 types to 29 and will include those for inflammation, painkillers and constipation.

The authority will next roll out the programme in nine districts this year, including Sham Shui Po, Yuen Long and Wan Chai.