Health and wellness

Hong Kong doctor named president of international health organisation targets raising standard of care in Greater Bay Area as main goal

  • Dr Donald Li takes top job at World Organisation of Family Doctors
  • Plans to introduce accreditation scheme for medical clinics in mainland China
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2018, 7:41pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2018, 7:43pm

A Hong Kong family doctor with a leading role in an international health organisation has said he wants to use his position to improve the standard of medical clinics in the “Greater Bay Area”.

Dr Donald Li Kwok-tung, who officially began his two-year term as president of the World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA) on Saturday, shared his aspirations for the integrated economic zone, which includes Hong Kong, Macau, and nine cities in Guangdong province.

While the organisation has previously developed a series of global standards for practice accreditation, Li hopes to introduce a similar scheme for medical clinics, especially private ones, in the special area to ensure a standardised level of health care.

The present accreditation scheme focuses on four key areas when assessing a practice, including quality of practitioners, care of patients, general operation practices, and facilities.

So far, five Beijing clinics and three Shanghai clinics, all under a Hong Kong private health care provider, have been accredited this year to WONCA standards, Li said.

“To develop primary care, private practice has to be allowed. What matters most for private practice is quality assurance [for patients],” said Li, a specialist in family medicine.

“By doing accreditation, we would look into the basic facilities of a clinic, and whether the doctors’ qualifications involved any family medicine training.”

Speaking to the Post in a phone interview while attending the WONCA World Conference in Seoul, South Korea, Li said he was honoured to become the president of the group.

Hong Kong seeks to expand voucher scheme for elderly patients to cover more mainland clinics

Li is the second Hongkonger to be handed the top job at WONCA. Dr Peter Lee Chung-yin, previously headed the organisation between 1992 and 1995.

Before taking up the leading role in WONCA, Li served as the president-elect for the past two years, and headed the city’s specialist training school, Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, from 2012 to 2016.

The doctor, who has worked to develop family medicine in mainland China for the past 20 years, believes his rich experience and knowledge of medical practice there could help further promote such accreditation among mainland clinics.

He said accreditation from the international organisation could help set standards for health clinics in the mainland.

“We could conduct accreditations and set standards in China, starting from the Greater Bay Area, or even all the way to areas along the Belt and Road,” Li said.

The government hopes the bay area project will provide opportunities for Hongkongers looking for flats, schools and care facilities for the elderly.

But, a shortage of quality health care in China has been a major obstacle for some Hongkongers looking to retire in mainland cities, the city’s former financial secretary and veteran businessmen Antony Leung Kam-chung had earlier said.

For instance, Leung said, on the mainland on average only 1.7 doctors are available to serve 1,000 patients. Hongkongers enjoy access to 2.6 doctors.

He believes Hong Kong could use its experience and expertise in the areas of biotechnology, health care and senior care to play a pivotal role in developing these sectors in the region.