I am glad to learn that Chief Executive Carrie Lam has incorporated in her first policy address some of the proposals put forward by the local healthcare sector to step up efforts at promoting grassroots healthcare service.
In order to promote public health “at source”, we believe the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority must give equal priority to health management and disease prevention at the grassroots level rather than just focusing on providing therapies and hospitalization. This new approach can also guarantee the healthy and sustainable development of our public healthcare system.
We are delighted that the chief executive has accepted our suggestions.
In her policy address, Lam also proposed setting up a steering committee on primary healthcare development and establishing a pioneering district healthcare center in Kwai Chung that provides the public with comprehensive and diversified professional healthcare services such as patient care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and medication consultation.
She also vowed to foster cooperation between healthcare providers and members of the community as well as between the private and public medical sectors at district levels.
I agree that these initiatives can help enhance public awareness about the importance of personal health management and disease prevention, as well as strengthen support for chronic patients in the community, so as to alleviate the pressure on our public specialist clinics and hospitals in the long run.
In her policy address, Lam also took our suggestions about relieving the mounting pressure on our public hospitals by strengthening the role of nurse-led clinics, extending the range of services provided by clinical pharmacists and enhancing the multidisciplinary medical services in our public psychiatric clinics.
I also welcome the government’s promise to increase funding for the Hospital Authority in such a way that the administration would gradually raise regular funding for the agency according to the pace of our population growth and the state of our demographic changes following a three-year cycle.
On top of increasing funding, I also urge the government to implement the recommendations made by the steering committee on the review of the Hospital Authority such as immediately redressing the balance for resource allocation in our public healthcare sector and, more importantly, addressing the issue of acute staff shortage in our public hospitals.
I am deeply concerned about the sluggishness of the administration in tackling staff shortage in our public hospitals. That said, I will continue to push for greater government efforts at human resources policy reform and staff retainment, and demand the formulation of a long-term human resources planning in our public healthcare sector.
Apart from the new initiatives already laid down in the policy address concerning mental healthcare services, in order to reverse our worsening student suicide rates, I also call on the government to implement the “one school, one nurse” policy in our schools immediately.
Under this policy, there would be at least one registered psychiatric nurse stationed in every primary and secondary school as well as university in the city, who can identify high-risk cases and intervene immediately before tragedy strikes.
I also strongly suggest that the administration promptly improve the ratio of case managers to mental patients, increase the number of psychiatric nurses and provide quality follow-up and rehabilitation services for mental patients.
Meanwhile, the government should also divert more resources into providing support for their family members.
There is still a whole bunch of pressing medical issues which the policy address didn’t touch on, such as enhancing the social hygiene service under the Department of Health, providing more support for patients of rare diseases, allowing mentally disabled individuals access to affordable dental care service and setting up a special task force to oversee the development of the local Chinese herbal medicine industry.
I sincerely hope that the government can address these issues promptly and act accordingly.
Last but not least, I am disappointed that the policy address failed to answer calls from healthcare workers for better regulation of the sector.
Our demands include reforming the Nursing Council of Hong Kong so that at least a portion of its members will be chosen through election in the near future, mandating that the five management committees under the Supplementary Medical Professions Council be chaired by members of the healthcare sector, establishing a regulatory body for pharmacists and striking a balance in the representation of members of the Chiropractors Council.
I hope the government can follow up on these issues immediately.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 17
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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