There is a growing demand for mental healthcare in Hong Kong, yet specialist services are overburdened. By strengthening community-based services, people could more easily access different levels of care across a wider range of places.
Amid talk of a ‘new chapter’ for Hong Kong, officials must not forget the promises made by the previous administration to strengthen primary healthcare, and build on its successes.
Uneven and inadequate provision of mental health services in the face of strict Covid-19 measures has left many isolated, without end-of-life care, or bereavement support. Strategies to address structural failings and strengthen Hong Kong’s healthcare system must take into account the importance of mental health.
A better system is needed for private-sector GPs and family doctors in the community to share the burden of non-urgent patients with the Hospital Authority – and to prevent the health care system from coming under similar strain in the future.
A recent Covid-19 lockdown and the health care voucher scheme for the elderly are examples of well-intentioned but not well-thought-out health measures. The fragmentation of health services in Hong Kong suggests the need to empower residents to navigate the health system.
The new hospital, due to open in 2025, will advance training and research to make Hong Kong an international model in delivering integrated Chinese-Western medical services.
Non-locally-trained doctors under the current limited registration scheme face difficulties in continuing specialist training and restricted promotion prospects. These issues must be addressed in the interest of fairness and to meet public needs.
Hong Kong can no longer rely on only a licensing exam to screen foreign-trained doctors and boost the doctor supply. Examples of other economies with more flexible medical registration systems are worth considering.
The government’s proposals to improve end-of-life care, such as allowing for dying at home, is only the first step. better public education and a greater provision of options, particularly in the community, are needed to relieve the burden on public hospitals.