We are happy that your paper took an interest in the accreditation scheme of the Hong Kong private hospitals.
However, there are many points in your report and editorial on this subject, both of which appeared in the South China Morning Post on March 13, which require clarification.
In your report, you say, 'Under the Trent Accreditation Scheme, the assessment is carried out by surveyors who are also employees of the 12 private hospitals.' In fact, the lead surveyor, with one or two surveyors from the United Kingdom, did the main part of the survey. There were two local surveyors, but their work was supervised and their reports checked by the UK surveyors.
You reported that Colin Clews, lead surveyor of the scheme, 'did not detail the criteria of the standard which, he said, are set by local private hospitals'. In fact, we followed most of the standards set by the Trent Accreditation Scheme, although there were some minor changes to suit local requirements.
The Trent Accreditation Scheme board proposed sending one of the hospital-survey reports to the Department of Health. In any case, as Martin Taylor, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Trent Accreditation Scheme and Mr Clews pointed out, the whole scheme is a dynamic one. Whatever standards are approved now will be reviewed and any recommendations followed up in two years by the UK surveyors.
Your editorial claimed that patients in private hospitals were 'assured of some refinements that the public health system cannot guarantee: mainly privacy, comfort and good food'. None of these things can cure a disease. Although the private hospitals cannot offer as comprehensive a service as the public hospitals, with whatever services they can offer, standards are comparable to those of the public hospitals. In order to survive, private hospitals must continue to invest in advanced medical equipment, new modalities of treatment and continuous training of staff.
You stated that 'Local private medicine was not highly regarded by the Harvard team invited to assess the health-care system in 1999.' As far as I am aware, the Harvard team did not visit the private hospitals, whereas the Trent surveyors spent five to six days in each hospital, day and night, observing the operation of hospital services.
No scheme can guarantee that no serious incidents will occur, but it can ensure that the hospitals and their staff follow the right procedures.
Dr KWONG KWOK-HAY
Director of Clinical Services
Hong Kong Sanatorium
E. A. BROWNHILL
Trent Accreditation Scheme-UK