More patients to avoid queues at Hong Kong public hospital clinics

Funds for those with high blood pressure or diabetes to seek private care will be expanded to all 12 city districts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 7:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 6:45pm

Overcrowded public hospitals may divert 5 per cent of work at outpatient clinics to private ­doctors next year after a scheme is ­expanded to all city districts.

The Hospital Authority said on Monday 35,000 patients with high blood pressure or diabetes, and who were eligible to join the scheme, would receive HK$3,034 each to make up to 10 visits to private doctors annually, allowing them to avoid queues at hospitals.

It would also reduce visits to hospitals by 350,000 and free valuable capacity for an ageing population demanding more medical services.

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The scheme first began in 2014 with three districts, but now ­covers 12 districts and serves 12,156 patients whose conditions were described as stable.

It will be further expanded ­later this year to the districts of Tsuen Wan, Tai Po, Islands, and Central and Western.

The final two districts, Yau Tsim Mong and North, would follow next year, senior manager of transformation projects Dr Leo Chan said.

After the full launch, a ­review will be conducted to see whether other patients with common illnesses, such as depression or cognitive impairment, may also receive funds.

The move aims to help correct the imbalance in the medical ­system where the public sector cares for more than 90 per cent of patients but employs just 40 per cent of doctors.

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Dr Wong Chi-ho, a private family doctor in Tuen Mun, said the scheme helped strengthen the role of primary health care.

Wong, who has 400 patients under the scheme, said private doctors were usually flexible in prescribing more up-to-date drugs and urged the authority to allow the use of more innovative medicines.

A patient at Tuen Mun Hospital, Tjia Heng Yap, 74, who suffers from high blood pressure, said the public clinic he used was always too full and he found it difficult to arrange a consultation.

But he could easily book a ­session with Wong since he joined the scheme earlier this year.