The Hospital Authority has released its first review report since its establishment in 1990, focusing on shortening patients’ waiting time and improving staff resource allocation.

In response to recommendations made in the report, the government will allocate HK$1.17 billion for reforms, of which HK$300 million will be used to improve services in areas with a lack of resources and HK$570 million for hiring retired doctors.

Ko Wing-man (second left) releasing the report at a press conference. Photo: GovHK.
Ko Wing-man (second left) and John Leong (second right) releasing the report at a press conference. Photo: GovHK.

The report was issued on Tuesday, following a two-year review carried out by the Steering Committee on Review of Hospital Authority.

At a press conference on the report’s release, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said the report could indicate ways for the Hospital Authority to improve its services. With regard to patients, he said: “We hope that they could enjoy better services with shorter waiting time and they could see a more consistent service provision among clusters.” 

However, Ko said that the authority still needed three extra months for research and analysis before developing a way to shorten waiting times. In a radio interview on Wednesday, he said the long waits in hospitals were caused by pressure on the medical sector resulting from an ageing population.

The Hospital Authority's clusters. Photo: Hospital Authority.
The Hospital Authority’s current cluster system, where Wong Tai Sin is grouped in Kowloon West. Photo: Hospital Authority.

Ko said the report called for the “delineation of cluster boundaries” in Kowloon to be revised, as construction of the Kai Tak Hospital will start soon. In order to attain consistent services between clusters and to meet demands of patients, the steering committee advised that the boundaries between Kowloon Central and Kowloon West be redefined. The report suggested the Wong Tai Sin district to be grouped under the Kowloon Central cluster, instead of Kowloon West where it currently stands.

John Leong Chi-yan, chair of the Hospital Authority, said that redefining cluster boundaries is not “as simple as it seems”, according to Ming Pao. He asked the public to remain patient and hoped to implement the report’s recommendations within the next three years.

The report also suggested for the Hospital Authority to formulate a comprehensive plan to shorten the waiting time for specialist out-patient clinics and emergency departments. In particular, the authority should coordinate with specialists to prevent lengthy delays at emergency rooms.

Patients at a waiting room. Photo. Apple Daily.
Patients at a waiting room.

However, some have expressed disappointment with the report. Tsang Kin-ping, chair of the Alliance for Patient’s Mutual Help Organisations said the report lacked any long-term planning and only tackled the issues “in bits and pieces.” He said that the suggested measures ultimately failed to meet challenges such as the ageing population and staff shortage.

The Hospital Authority manages public hospitals and institutes in Hong Kong and is monitored by the Secretary for Food and Health. The authority has organised its seven hospital clusters based on their geographical locations since 1993.

Paul Benedict Lee is an undergraduate law student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Paul has previously contributed to HK Magazine and Radio Television Hong Kong, covering issues ranging from local heritage conservation to arts features. He has also worked as a legal intern at local human rights firm Daly & Associates.