Up to 20 needy patients from Yan Chai Hospital will get free heart surgery at Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital under a new public-private hospital partnership.
Patients who are referred from any public hospital other than Yan Chai, regardless of their income, will receive a 25 per cent discount on their surgery bill at the private hospital.
Tsuen Wan Adventist president Frank Yeung Ming-lai said the one-year scheme would mean coronary heart disease patients who needed angioplasty could be operated on sooner than in the public system.
Angioplasty involves inserting a balloon to unblock a blood vessel and restore normal blood flow.
The average waiting time for the surgery at public hospitals is four to 12 weeks, Hospital Authority figures show.
Yan Chai, also in Tsuen Wan, does not perform such operations and has had to transfer patients to public hospitals in other districts.
'We have been co-operating with Adventist Hospital in several other areas and now we see a need in [angioplasty],' Yeung said.
Under the scheme, non-emergency patients from Yan Chai who qualify for a fee waiver at public hospitals can now apply for surgery funded by Tsuen Wan Adventist's charitable foundation.
The private hospital has set aside HK$2 million from the fund to treat 20 patients on a first-come-first-served basis. The scheme might be extended after a year, Yeung said.
Angioplasty patients referred from other public hospitals will get 25 per cent off, with no quota set.
The surgery costs HK$130,000 to HK$250,000 at private hospitals and HK$69,000 for non-welfare patients at public hospitals, said Cheung Tak-hai, vice-chairman of the Alliance for Patients' Mutual Help Organisations.
'The scheme will be effective in helping heart patients,' Cheung said. Patients who urgently needed the surgery got priority at public hospitals, but those diagnosed as non-emergency cases might deteriorate during the wait, he said.
'There have been cases of patients who were fit enough to be discharged from hospital, but then died from a sudden seizure at home,' he said.
Lee Yat-sun, deputy chief executive of the Yan Chai Hospital board, said: 'Our main emphasis is to help patients, not help [Adventist Hospital] make profits.'
About 6,000 angioplasty operations were performed in 2010-11 at public hospitals, an increase from about 5,000 in 2007-08.