A busy Chinese New Year

In the Chinese New Year holidays, I went with my family and HKDU members to Cambodia for her world known beautiful scenery. HKDU did try to organize a tailor made tour to Cambodia for our members. However, due to great difference in tour price between that of tailor made and retail packages, we have no choice but to give up the tailor made tour and joined the retail packages to Cambodia with HKDU members. Though the weather there was very hot, over 35 degree Celsius most of the time, but the tour was fruitful for the scenery, for the culture and for the dark side story of the communist party in Cambodia. Members interested may view some of our photos taken on page 13 of this Bulletin.

The final week before the Chinese New Year was indeed too busy for me. Not only I had to look after my patients before the Chinese New Year holidays, I had to attend 3 meetings organized by the Government in a row within 4 days.

First meeting in the row was the 1st meeting of Working Group on Regulation of Private Hospitals held on 4.2.2013 in the Government headquarters. The terms of reference of the working group are:

1.      To review the scope of the existing legislation and the regulatory regime for private hospitals, and

2. To formulate recommendations for enhanced control of different aspects related to the provision of healthcare services by private hospitals.

As I have said previously, the main purpose of the Steering Committee on Review of the Regulation of Private Healthcare Facilities (Steering Committee) was on regulation of private hospitals which was initiated by the Director of Audit’s Report No. 59 on regulatory control of private hospitals issued in October 2012. Among others, the report recommended the Director of Health should inspect, document and issue warning letters to private hospitals when serious irregularities are detected during inspections. The sentinel events and complaints of private hospitals should be closely monitored and disclosed in a timely manner. The Audit also recommended the Secretary for Food and Health should take measures to further enhance the price transparency of private hospitals and consider adopting the findings and recommendations of the review when conducting the forthcoming review on the regulatory regime for private health care facilities.

To meet the demands of the present society, I agreed to the aforesaid recommendations during the meeting. However, these measures should be considered alongside with the public sector too. In other words, the measures governing hospitals in the private and the public sector should be the same since the patients received by the hospitals should not be given different treatments apart from queuing and the price.

My last question to those present in the meeting is: “Why on earth could the Hong Kong Private Hospitals Association acting under the umbrella of the Department of Health set out rule to order all doctors in Hong Kong to acquire professional indemnity insurance with no limit on indemnity ... before they are granted admission rights to private hospitals?” I voiced out loudly that this was insane and ridiculous since all insurance companies all over the world including mutual helping societies are limited in liability. I asked the representative of the Hong Kong Private Hospitals Association to review the situation.

Next meeting in the row was the 3rd meeting of Consultative Group on Health Protection Scheme (HPS) looking into the feasibility of Product Design for HPS. It was held in the morning of 7.2.2013 at Government headquarters.

The main rationale behind HPS is that it will make health care financing more sustainable through attracting substantially more people to rely on private insurance to utilize the private sector health market rather than the public hospitals.

During the meeting, the primary focus of the Consultancy brief, commissioned by the Government, is on historical and current analysis of the existing health insurance market in Hong Kong. The historical and current insurance data is important as foundation material but however, the data are not comprehensive as they lack data for ambulatory care and surgery. Furthermore, as I have suggested in the meeting, we should take into consideration, data from around the world.

As the Government and the insurance companies are mostly interested in package pricing for sustainability, I have reminded those attendee not to force participating doctors to act as the second insurance provider to shoulder the risk of insurance. The fee for professional medical services should be respected and should not be counted together with other inpatient fees.

Furthermore, the extent to which the Government is prepared to encourage people to choose private insurance, rather than very low cost public health facilities, is through subsidy or tax relief.

The main concern driving the doubts about the sustainability of health care financing is our aging population, with more people living into extreme old age with long term and chronic care needs and the reality is that more than half of all life time care costs are incurred in the last three years of life. This is a problem the Government must face but there should be no illusions that HPS will provide a significant solution.

Last meeting in the row was the 2nd meeting of the Working Group on Differentiation between Medical Procedures and Beauty Services (WG) held in the afternoon of 7.2.2013 in Wu Chung House.

As I have previously reported in HKDU bulletin about the marked differences in opinion between the Medical and Beauty representatives, this meeting was supposed to further study those procedures, e.g. laser, Intense-pulsed light, extracorporeal shock wave, cryolipolysis ... to see if the two sides can come into any compromise. However, members could find from the news on 25th Feb 2013 that the Beauty representatives in their press conference showed their discontent in being the minority group in the WG and being not represented in the Steering Committee. They showed their discontent further by resigning from the WG unless and until one Medical member of the WG was removed. This Medical member was said to have uttered strong words against the Beauty representatives in the 2nd meeting of the WG. Let’s hope that our Secretary can mediate and rescue such awful situation.

Dr. Yeung Chiu Fat Henry

26 Feb 2013