24 May 2019
Hong Kong authorities face growing public healthcare challenges due to a rise in the elderly population.  Photo: Department of Health
Hong Kong authorities face growing public healthcare challenges due to a rise in the elderly population. Photo: Department of Health

New approach needed on elderly healthcare

As our population is continuing to age, demand for public healthcare services is growing by leaps and bounds. In this situation, it is perhaps just a matter of time before our public hospitals and clinics are pushed to the breaking point.

In order to alleviate the pressure on our public hospitals, particularly their accident and emergency (A&E) departments, in the days ahead, the Hospital Authority (HA) must think outside the box and come up with a new approach to running our public healthcare system.

In my opinion, one viable option is to foster long-term partnership between the HA, the Department of Health, the Social Welfare Department and non-governmental organizations so as to coordinate a joint effort at maintaining and monitoring the health of our citizens, particularly the elderly, at the community level, thereby reducing overall emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

To be more precise, the HA, the government departments mentioned above and NGOs can set up medical outreach teams that are comprised of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, etc, in communities across the territory.

These outreach teams can visit nursing homes and elderly health centers across the city on a regular basis to provide senior citizens with primary care service, health surveillance, professional medical assessment, diagnosis and opinion in order to manage and monitor the health of the senior citizens at community levels and reduce the number of their emergency room visits.

The outreach teams can also pay regular home visits to elderly and provide comprehensive “one-stop” home care service for them in order to minimize their need for clinic visits or hospital admissions.

The HA and the Social Welfare Department can also introduce patient case management program, under which case managers would provide customized health surveillance services for elderly people as a means to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.

In the meantime, I also suggest that the Housing Department, the Health Department and the Social Welfare Department collaborate in establishing nurse-led clinics in our public housing estates so that our senior citizens can have access to primary care service, professional medical assessment and opinion right on their doorstep, thereby minimizing their need to visit hospitals.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 4

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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