REHABILITATION

How can mainland China’s health care be improved? Hong Kong’s former finance minister thinks he has the answer

Former finance chief Antony Leung is using his involvement in mainland health care facilities to push for better care for the elderly and rehabilitation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 August, 2017, 12:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 August, 2017, 4:11pm

Former Hong Kong finance minister Antony Leung Kam-chung has launched an ambitious project to recruit the city’s talent to train health care professionals on the mainland, which is experiencing a serious shortage of high-quality carers.

Leung is trying to reverse the trend through his leadership of New Frontier, an investment group that owns Care Alliance, which operates a number of mainland health care facilities, including for the elderly and rehabilitation.

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“There is great demand for rehabilitation on the mainland, which is still looking at standards and the operation of services. But in Hong Kong the level of our services is relatively mature,” Leung said, adding that Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen faced a shortage of one million carers.

“How could we help to set and raise standards of rehabilitation on the mainland? I think Hong Kong could certainly help in the future,” Leung said.

New Frontier said it would pump 1 ­billion yuan (HK$1.17 billion) into healthcare projects in southwestern parts of the mainland. This comes after it earlier this year pledged to inject at least 1 billion yuan into a Shenzhen-based medical group so it can take part in the Greater Bay Area plan, an integration scheme involving Hong Kong, Macau and nine Pearl River Delta cities.

Leung met Hong Kong journalists in Chengdu last week to introduce the Care Alliance ­Rehabilitation Hospital, a new facility in which New Frontier has invested more than 100 million yuan. The hospital is set to open late next month.

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New Frontier has entered a partnership with a few Hong Kong institutions to train health care workers on the mainland.

For example, experts from the Vocational Training Council will ­provide training courses for carers in all health care institutions under New Frontier, while the Society for Rehabilitation will provide training for mainland physiotherapists and occupational therapists working in the firm’s Chengdu rehabilitation hospital.

Two young Hongkongers have joined the growing trend of taking part in exchanges between Hong Kong and mainland health care personnel by working as ­interns at a separate hospital under the Care Alliance.

Opting for elderly care might be a rather unusual career choice for Yeung Kwok-ho, 22, and Dickman Wai, 21, who have started a two-month internship after completing a higher diploma course in elderly care services at the city’s Institute of Vocational Education.

“I want to understand how elderly care homes operate on the mainland and whether there are any practices we can adopt,” said Wai, who was motivated to study elderly care after seeing his grandmother suffering in a Hong Kong care home.

“Would the elderly in China respond differently to the same techniques I use in Hong Kong?”

The pair, who were the first two students in their programme to take up internships on the mainland, will help organise physical exercises for the elderly and cognitive training for those with dementia.