23 March 2019
Hong Kong's public healthcare sector has been plagued by staff shortage for years. Photo: China Daily
Hong Kong's public healthcare sector has been plagued by staff shortage for years. Photo: China Daily

What healthcare service sector expects from the next CE

Following the stunning performance of the pan-democratic alliance “300+” in the recent Chief Executive Election Committee contest, there is no doubt that the pro-democracy camp will be a force that no candidate for Hong Kong’s top job can afford to ignore in the upcoming CE election.

In the Election Committee polls last month, the healthcare service sub-group saw voter turnout rise 20 percent from 2011, indicating that constituents in the sector were becoming more pro-active and looking forward to change.

Over the past several weeks I received a lot of constructive opinions from my fellow constituents in the sector, many of whom have pointed out some of the pressing issues that need to be addressed by the next CE quickly:

Firstly, many people want the new CE to review and balance the roles of the public and private healthcare sectors. The public healthcare sector has been plagued by understaffing problem for years. As there are not enough doctors and nurses in our public hospitals, it has taken a toll on the quality of the healthcare services.

There have been calls from within the sector as well as the general public over the years for the government to divert more resources and hire more medical staff to meet the growing public needs. Unfortunately, thee calls have largely gone unanswered.

In the meantime, the overall turnover rate of our frontline medical staff is now at an all-time high, thereby further exacerbating the personnel shortage in our public hospitals.

Given this, I strongly urge the incoming CE to quickly address the issue of staff retention in public hospitals and clinics, by for example, improving the salary levels and working conditions of medical staff.

Secondly, members of the healthcare service sector strongly urge the incoming CE to respond positively to the demand for more professional autonomy.

Currently all the 5 boards under the Supplementary Medical Professions Council (SMPC) overseeing the practice of medical laboratory technologists, occupational therapists, optometrists, physiotherapists and radiographers are all chaired by lay members, and there have been calls over the years to redress such imbalance.

Meanwhile, many guidelines laid down by the Nurses Registration Ordinance, which was passed by the Legislative Council as far back as in 1997, are yet to be put into practice.

We also hope that the next CE will continue to support the Accredited Registers Scheme for Healthcare Professions (ARSHP), which has already been endorsed by members of the sector and given the green light by Legco in May last year.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 9

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Legislative councilor and head of nursing and health studies in the Open University of Hong Kong

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