NewsHong Kong patient advocates urge mainland healthcare voucher transparency

Hong Kong patient advocates urge mainland healthcare voucher transparency

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Patient advocacy groups in Hong Kong are calling on authorities to provide more information regarding the use of elderly healthcare vouchers in mainland China. Concerns have arisen over the handling of medical disputes and compensation claims across the border. The Health Bureau’s recent announcement of plans to extend the city’s voucher scheme to additional hospitals and dental centers in the Greater Bay Area has prompted calls for clarity on service quality control, particularly as it will be managed by mainland authorities.

Secretary for Health, Lo Chung-mau, emphasized the strict and serious control exercised by mainland health commissions. He assured that avenues for complaints exist in Hong Kong if patients find services below expectations, and the Department of Health is equipped to address claims related to healthcare vouchers. The Greater Bay Area initiative aims to link Hong Kong, Macau, and nine Guangdong province cities into an economic powerhouse.

While praising the potential benefits of the scheme, Alex Lam Chi-yau, chairman of advocacy group Hong Kong Patients’ Voices, highlighted the lack of recourse for complaints against mainland medical institutions or staff. Lam urged the government to explain the filing process for complaints and claims, ensuring mainland institutions meet the required standards and prevent misuse of taxpayer money.

The Elderly Health Care Voucher Pilot Scheme, initiated in 2009, provides an annual voucher of HK$2,000 per eligible person, with an accumulative limit of HK$8,000. The government’s plan to expand the scheme to additional bay area hospitals and dental centers has raised questions about how complaints, claims, and insurance procedures will be handled.

Patient rights advocate Tim Pang Hung-cheong and Linda Tsang Chi-man, executive director of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions’ bay area branch, echoed the call for clear explanations of the channels available for filing complaints. They also emphasized the need for promotion and education to help elderly residents navigate the expanded scheme effectively.

Residents living in the Greater Bay Area expressed concerns about the accessibility of healthcare facilities. Some noted the distance to the nearest hospitals under the scheme, while others highlighted the importance of transparency in fee structures at mainland facilities. Despite apprehensions, individuals like Mickie Lam Suk-mei and Kane Chan shared positive experiences with mainland healthcare, emphasizing the need for clear communication and accessibility information for Hong Kong residents using the voucher scheme.

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