The Chief Executive’s 2018 Policy Address touches on many healthcare aspects affecting the community of Hong Kong with Carrie Lam stating that “healthcare services are livelihood issues of greatest public concern just after housing”. Below is a complete summary of the various health initiatives covered in the recent 2018 Policy Address to the legislative council.
The Government aims to continue to improve and strengthen Hong Kong’s primary healthcare system and services and formally recognize Chinese medicine as part of Hong Kong’s healthcare development. The importance of planning ahead in regards to medical hardware facilities and manpower of healthcare professionals is a key focus as well.
The Chief is committed to enhancing district-based primary healthcare services in Hong Kong which aims to alleviate the pressure on public hospitals. The Food and Health Bureau (FHB) is now setting up the first District Health Center (DHC) in Kwai Tsing District which will provide services such as health promotion, health assessment, chronic disease management, and community rehabilitation. The DHC is intended to be a service hub and network run by medical and healthcare practitioners in various districts now and in the future to ensure service stability.
Prevention and Control of Diseases
As mentioned in the Towards 2025 Strategy and Action plan, measures are being taken to prevent and control diseases by the Department of Health, including the promotion of a healthy diet, physical activity, and the reduction of alcohol and tobacco use, the aim is to prevent health issues that come along with poor health.
Regulations on tobacco control are being implemented through providing more no-smoking areas and periodic duty increases on tobacco products. Furthermore, legislation on electronic cigarettes are being heavily considered and integrated in order to ban the import, manufacture, sale, distribution, and advertisement of e-cigarettes and other new smoking products, all aspects are to reduce smoking prevalence by a target of 7.8% by 2025.
Strategies related to Cancer prevention and care services are being mapped out for 2020-2025 taking into account WHO recommendations, international practices, and local situations. A highlight of this is the introduction of the free HPV vaccination to primary school girls starting from the 2019/20 school year in order to prevent cervical cancer.
The Government will closely monitor the scientific evidence and outcome of a study being conducted to identify risk factors associated with breast cancer, the outcome will determine what type of screening is to be adopted for women of different risk profiles.
A large-scale genome sequencing project in Hong Kong has been put together in order to enhance the clinical application of genomic medicine, providing huge potential in screening, diagnosis, and precision medicine.
HK$50 million will be dedicated to the on-going mental health promotion and public education initiative aims to enhance public understanding of mental health to reduce the stigmatization around people with mental health needs.
The Department of Health has implemented a pilot program in the 2018/19 school year to roll out free seasonal influenza vaccination services for primary students at schools. Furthermore, the Vaccination Subsidy Scheme has been expanded to eligible people aged between 50 and 64.
Positioning and Development of Chinese Medicine
The Government will strive to promote the development of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong to assume a more prominent role in promoting public health. The Chinese Medicine Hospital Project Office and the Chinese Medicine Unit, have been established in the FHB.
Through government subsidizing defined as “Chinese medicine services”, Chinese medicine will be incorporated into the healthcare system in Hong Kong. With a dedicated fund of HK$500 million implementation will commence in the first half of 2019 for promoting Chinese medicine development in areas such as applied research, Chinese medicine specialization, knowledge exchange, and cross-market co-operation. The funds will also assist local Chinese medicine traders with the production and registration of proprietary Chinese medicine. The government will also introduce Chinese medicine as part of the civil service medical benefits.
Enhancing Healthcare Services
The Hospital Authority (HA) has commissioned a consultancy study to review the existing means of the Samaritan Fund and the Community Care Fund Medical Assistance Programme, the goal is to ultimately lower the patients’ out-of-pocket spending, benefiting grassroots and middle-class patients.
To benefit the elderly facing financial difficulties, the Government will expand the target beneficiaries of the Community Care Fund Elderly Dental Assistance Programme in early 2019 to cover all elderly persons receiving Old Age Living Allowance, lowering the age limit from 70 or above to 65 or above.
Terminally-ill patients will have more options regarding their own treatment and care arrangements, the Government will consult the public in 2019 on arrangements of advance directives and the relevant end-of-life care.
The FEDH and the HA have already implemented various administrative measures to facilitate the handling of aborted fetuses for families improving arrangements in a holistic manner, including the provision of facilities.
Sustainable Development of Healthcare System
The HK$300 billion budget as announced in the 2018-19 has been set to meet the increasing demand for healthcare services arising from an aging population. Upon completion of the 10-year hospital development plan commissioned to the HA, over 9,000 additional beds and other facilities will meet demands up to 2036. The Department of Health will also update or improve its healthcare facilities in stages. The Government will allocate HK$20 billion to upgrade the teaching facilities of the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Prince Philip Dental Hospital in time.
The Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme will be fully implemented and a tax deduction will be provided to encourage the public to purchase Certified Plans, promoting the use of private healthcare services in order to alleviate the long-term pressure on the public healthcare system.
Enhancing Public Health Regulation
A full-fledged Office for Regulation of Private Healthcare Facilities will undertake the relevant statutory enforcement work, to ensure patient safety and protecting consumer rights. The Government will introduce legislation to regulate Advanced Therapy Products (ATP) with an aim to safeguard public health. The regulatory bodies have also been invited to submit proposals to the Government on regulation and development of healthcare professions.
Protection for Employees Injured at Work
In order to strengthen the protection of the rights and benefits of employees injured at work or suffering from occupational diseases, the Government is considering a provision of treatment and rehabilitation services through timely and well-coordinated private medical services, the aim is to speed up recovery and enhanced Claims Support Services. In contrast, investigation and prosecution to combat violation of the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance will be strengthened.
Community Support for Families of Persons with Disabilities
Considering that many people with disabilities have expressed their wishes to continue living at home in order to postpone their admission into residential care homes, the Government will strengthen a range of community support services for their families. The Government will also set up five additional District Support Centres for Persons with Disabilities and strengthen rehabilitation training and service in order to enhance their service capacity and quality. The Government will also increase the number of Support Centres for Persons with Autism from three to five.
Community Care and Support Services for the Elderly
To meet the different needs of elderly persons living in the community and to offer them home, community, and residential choices, the Government will provide an additional 2,000 service quota under the Enhanced Home and Community Care Services within 2019. Additional residential places from private RCHEs participating in the Enhanced Bought Place Scheme (EBPS) will provide residential respite service for elderly persons to meet the demand for beds in public hospitals during the seasonal peak of influenza.
The government will also reinstate the population-based planning ratios in the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines for subsidized residential care services, community care services, district elderly community centres, and neighbourhood elderly centres.
Drinking Water Safety
The Government is working to take forward the Action Plan for Enhancing Drinking Water Safety in Hong Kong. Water quality monitoring has been implemented at the consumers’ end, and more stringent measures to regulate plumbing materials and commissioning of new plumbing installations are being formulated. Guidelines and templates to assist consumers in implementing the Water Safety Plan for Buildings will be addressed, and public education on drinking water safety will be enhanced.
Improving Air Quality
To further bring down roadside air pollutant levels, the government plans to introduce new measures including tightening emission standards, phasing out diesel commercial vehicles by 2023, subsidizing franchised buses with catalytic reduction systems, reviewing the Pilot Green Transport Fund to increase wider use of green transport technologies, and encouraging the use of new energy vehicles in general.