ICAC issues health care sector guidelines to prevent corruption in public-private partnership

Rules will define offences such as service providers accepting rebates for patient referral, or patients bribing providers to jump queue

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 12:18am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 12:18am

Closer partnership between public and private health care service providers has prompted Hong Kong’s graft-buster to issue guidelines in a bid to prevent corruption among stakeholders.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption issued tailor-made corruption prevention guidelines for the city’s health care sector Friday.

Professor Cindy Lam Lo-kuen, a member of ICAC’s corruption prevention advisory committee, said a code of conduct was listed in a booklet issued as part of the move.

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Also included are possible corruption risks faced by patients and agents in the public and private health care sectors.

“Agents and service providers should not offer any advantage to lure patients to choose their medical packages,” Lam said.

“When expediting payment from public funds, service providers are banned from exaggerating the number of patients they received and medical treatment provided,” Lam added, saying the guide also offers anti-corruption measures.

Amid the pressing demand for public health care services, the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority rolled out the public-private partnership programme in 2008 to channel subsidised patients to private sector health care services. More than 20,000 patients have benefitted from the programme.

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ICAC said it did not receive any complaints related to the partnership programme so far.

The guidelines also come after the Hospital Authority announced earlier that some 8,000 patients waiting for colonoscopy at public hospitals would be allowed to use facilities in private clinics at subsidised rates starting next month, in an attempt to ease demand pressure.

The graft-buster said other corruption risks included patients bribing service providers, hoping to jump the line for early treatment, or to receive services they were not eligible for.

“[It is an offence for a health care agent] to accept rebates from individuals for referring a patient for further services without the patient’s consent,” Lam said.

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Lam encouraged patients to ask about health care service details, such as prices and options, as they had a right to choose the doctor or service provider of their choice.

There are currently 12 government-funded health care schemes under the partnership, including the vaccination subsidy scheme and cataract surgeries programme.

Estimated expenditure for the partnership programme reached HK$237 million in 2015/16.

In March, the Legislative Council also approved HK$10 billion for the Hospital Authority to fund the programme.