In his latest and final policy address, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying put emphasis on public healthcare. Some of his policy initiatives addressed the concerns of both patients and the healthcare sector, and some did not. Perhaps it is time to take stock of them.
Despite the fact that Leung has vowed to spend an extra HK$2 billion in the 2017-18 financial year to improve services in public hospitals such as increasing the number of hospital beds and the number of operating theater sessions, enhancing emergency surgical services and expanding the service of out-patient and specialist clinics, etc., he has failed to address the pressing issue of understaffing in our public hospitals and clinics.
The government should put forward a long-term plan to ensure we have enough doctors and nurses in our public hospitals and clinics in the face of growing public demand.
On the other hand, the healthcare sector is also dismayed at the fact that the policy address failed to answer calls for increasing public dental services for the elderly. Nor did it tackle the issue of poor-quality service in private nursing homes which has become a cause for widespread concern in recent years.
The policy address also did not mention a word about how it will answer calls for policies to facilitate home care for the terminally ill.
Terminally ill patients who have already exhausted all treatment options should be allowed to live out their days in comfort. Staying out of the hospital and remaining at home with their families are key to attaining that.
Despite the shortcomings, there is still something good about the policy address.
For example, Leung should be given credit for finally taking action to strengthen government support for schools in monitoring the mental health of students.
Moreover, Leung has also answered calls for increasing manpower for public psychiatric clinics, shortening the average waiting times of first-time mental patients and improving the proportion of clinic case managers to patients with serious mental illness.
I hope the incoming government that will assume office in July will continue Leung’s initiatives on healthcare.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 9
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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