Hong Kong's world-class hospitals could still benefit from key reforms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 July, 2015, 1:47am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 July, 2015, 1:47am

Conventional wisdom says, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Our public health care system is by no means on the verge of a breakdown. But as the governing body operating for decades, the Hospital Authority is in need of a comprehensive review. This is particularly important as the city faces challenges arising from an ageing society and soaring medical costs.

Unsurprisingly, surgery is called for after the authority's first full check-up in 24 years. This includes revamping the existing geographical-based clusters of public hospitals; boosting manpower and strengthening staff training; and public-private partnership. Belated as they are, the recommendations by a steering committee are necessary steps to rectifying long-standing problems.

With annual government funding of HK$49 billion, the authority is financially well endowed to provide high-quality services. Currently, it handles millions of patients in and out of its hospitals every year. Our professionals also achieve medical breakthroughs from time to time. The committee has rightly acknowledged that our services are among the world's best. But whether patients can readily benefit is another matter. High demand and uneven allocation of resources across clusters mean some patients often have to wait longer than others for consultations and treatments, sometimes at the expense of their health.

Officials said they would map out detailed reform plans in three months and carry them out within three years. Understandably, reform takes time. But for a body whose operation has a direct impact on people's lives, it would be in the public interest to speed it up.

The future will be more challenging, as nearly one in three of the population will be aged 65 or above by 2041. This is expected to put more pressure on our public health care system. The government must seize the reform opportunity to put the Hospital Authority on a more healthy footing.