NewsPublic-private partnerships can ease pressure on Hong Kong's

Public-private partnerships can ease pressure on Hong Kong’s

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Hong Kong’s public hospitals could benefit from strengthened public-private partnerships, according to an advocacy group and a former chief executive of the Hospital Authority’s Hong Kong East Cluster. Dr. Luk Che-chung suggested that larger private hospitals could assist by taking on patients with prolonged waiting times, specifically those classified as “semi-urgent” or “non-urgent,” at reasonable prices.

During a recent radio program, Dr. Luk emphasized the potential benefits of exploring partnerships or pilot schemes between the government and private hospitals or medical groups. This collaborative approach, he argued, could offer patients more options and alleviate pressure on public medical resources.

While acknowledging that fees are one method to optimize resource allocation, Dr. Luk cautioned against the government’s proposal to charge patients varying amounts based on the urgency of their conditions. He expressed concern that such a system might lead to disputes between already understaffed medical teams and patients or their families.

Dr. Luk further highlighted the preventative aspect of the proposed partnership model, suggesting it could deter the private sector from following the public sector’s lead in increasing charges.

The current government review of Accident and Emergency (A&E) costs aims to curb abuses within the system. Health Minister Lo Chung-mau indicated that those exploiting the system might face fees similar to those for family doctor consultations, while urgent cases could be charged at a more affordable rate.

Ivan Lin Wai-kiu, a community organizer at the Society for Community Organisation, questioned the effectiveness of managing A&E demand through pricing. He argued that the root cause of the issue lay in the limited availability of outpatient services, emphasizing the need to enhance outpatient departments rather than relying solely on pricing strategies.

Lin concurred with the idea of private-public partnerships as a means to reduce pressure on the public healthcare system, proposing a stronger focus on collaboration at the primary care level with family doctors. He urged the government to promote existing schemes and provide incentives to encourage patients to seek family doctor services immediately, bypassing the need for A&E visits.

The article also highlighted the existing triage system in Hong Kong’s 18 public hospitals, categorizing patients into critical, emergency, urgent, semi-urgent, and non-urgent groups. As of Monday afternoon, the average waiting time at these A&E departments ranged from one to more than eight hours, underscoring the urgency of exploring innovative solutions to address the strain on emergency services.

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