The government’s health chief has denied that the recent budget cut for the Hospital Authority was the cause of the “emergency” situation at public hospitals.

Public hospitals in Hong Kong remain over capacity this week due to the recent surge in influenza cases. By Tuesday night, the overall medical inpatient bed occupancy rate of hospitals under the Hospital Authority stood at 115 percent. The highest was at Queen Elizabeth Hospital with 130 percent occupancy rate.

Ko Wing-man.
Ko Wing-man. Photo: Now TV screen capture.

Last month, the Financial Secretary proposed reducing recurrent funding for the Hospital Authority by HK$236 million or 0.5 percent during his budget speech.

Speaking on Wednesday afternoon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said that some frontline medical workers may have some resentment due to “some misunderstandings”.

“In such times of emergency, if there were still some rumours being spread saying that we… cut resources affecting the frontline,” Ko said, “this is surely not true.”

Public hospital bed occupancy rates on March 8.
Public hospital bed occupancy rates on March 8. Photo: Gov HK.

He told reporters that, since the government and the Hospital Authority implemented a one-off grant system, the Hospital Authority can save unused funds from previous years if it did not spend it on hiring staff due to staff shortages.

“Hence the Hospital Authority, especially the frontline, have no need ever to worry about resources,” he said.

But he added there was difficulties in recruiting an adequate number of staff due to poor training over the past decade. “In this regard, we are doing our best, including adding back the needed placements in our tertiary institutions to help [with] training up [staff] as quick[ly] as possible,” he said.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.