More patients are likely to turn to private medical services under the government's proposed medical insurance scheme, a senior medical source says, and that means the government should make changes in its quality assurance programme.
Private hospitals would have to do more to improve quality, the source said, and that the review of the 'outdated' law governing private hospitals is necessary because the existing requirements on the operators are too minimal. The review, by the Food and Health Bureau, is one part of reforms from now to 2013.
'The current legislation only requires private hospitals to have a very basic infrastructure such as medical equipment or proper space for ambulances, but what we need today is hospital accreditation, electronic health-care systems and more quality assurance programmes,' the source said.
The government also believes that reform of the Hong Kong Medical Council is needed, including adding more lay members to reflect the public's views.
The Medical Council, which has the power to ask doctors to do more study in their specialities and can discipline them, would be central to a review of the regulatory framework for all medical professionals. It would also impose new quality assurance requirements on private hospitals.
The source said the Medical Council should have more lay representation to bring it 'to the same front' with its counterparts in advanced countries.
Tim Pang Hung-cheong, Patients' Rights Association spokesman, said such a revamp was 'long overdue' because the council had long been dominated by doctors.
The South China Morning Post reported earlier that the Medical Council had a relatively low number of lay members compared with its counterparts abroad. The council now has four lay members out of 28.
In 2001, it was advised to add at least four more lay members, for a total of 32. But it failed to implement such a change.
Dr Choi Kin, president of the Medical Association and a council member, said 'any attempt by the government to revamp the system must have the prior consultation of the profession'.
The senior source said some unregulated professionals, including clinical psychologists, dietitians and speech therapists, would be put under a registration system.