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Knowledge Event for Health Policy Leaders on
“Collaborate Governance in Health Systems: Partnership of Civil Society, Public and Private Sectors”
on 18 November 2017
Opening Remarks by the Secretary for Food and Health

Professor EK Yeoh [Director, School of Public Health and Primary Care, Cluster Head, Knowledge Event],
Prof John Leong [Chairman, HA]
Dr Pak-yin Leung [CE, HA]
Prof Gabriel Leung [Dean, Faculty of Medicine, HKU]
Prof Joseph Lee [LegCo member]
Ms Shelley Lee [Trustee, Golden Jubilee Charity Foundation (donor)]
Mrs Eva Cheng [Executive Director, Our Hong Kong Foundation]
Prof Paul Lai [President, the College of Surgeons of Hong Kong],

distinguished speakers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

    Good morning. It is my great pleasure to join you all at the Knowledge Event today and share with you how Hong Kong strives to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through partnership of civil society, public and private sectors. According to the World Health Organization, “Universal Health Coverage” refers to the state where all people have access to the health services they need without the risk of financial hardship when paying for them.

2. With a population of 7.4 million people, Hong Kong is blessed with one of the most efficient healthcare systems with our citizens being the longest living people in the world. Our public health policy ensures that no Hong Kong people are deprived of basic healthcare due to lack of means. Our public healthcare services are provided through our public hospital and general outpatient clinic system operated by a statutory non-government public body, the Hospital Authority. For the time being, some 90% of hospital admissions are heavily subsidised by the government while private hospitals roughly account for 10% of hospital services.

3. While our public healthcare services are deeply cherished by Hong Kong people, the sustainability of our public healthcare system is challenged by our rapidly ageing population. It is estimated that by 2041, Hong Kong’s population will reach 8.5 million, with persons aged 65 or above accounting for 30% of the total population. Besides the ageing population, we also need to explore ways to address the heavy reliance of the public hospital system in order to maintain its sustainability.

Development of Public Healthcare System
4. To strengthen our public healthcare system, the Government will deploy sufficient resources and enhance the supporting infrastructure to keep improving the healthcare services and facilities. The Government and the Hospital Authority will press ahead with the delivery of the 10-year Public Hospital Development Plan, for which $200 billion has been earmarked and kick-start the next round of public hospital development planning in the coming five years.

5. On healthcare manpower, the Hospital Authority will employ all qualified local medical graduates and provide them with relevant specialist training. Over 2000 medical graduates will register as medical practitioners in the next five years. We will also make every effort to retain existing and rehire qualified healthcare professionals as appropriate.

Primary Healthcare
6. While the Government is enhancing the public healthcare system, we have also made strong commitment to the development of primary healthcare in Hong Kong. Being the first level of healthcare, primary healthcare embraces strong elements of health promotion, disease prevention, rehabilitation and maintenance of the health of chronic patients and the disabled.

7. The Chief Executive in the 2017 Policy Address announced that the Government would set up a steering committee on primary healthcare development to comprehensively review the existing planning of primary healthcare services and draw up a development blueprint. Its work will include drawing up a model for district-based medical-social collaboration, using big data to identify areas of medical care services and establishing a framework to implement measures on disease prevention, screening and identification.

8. The Food and Health Bureau will also set up a district health centre in Kwai Tsing district within two years with a view to enhancing public awareness of disease prevention and their capability in self-management of health through public-private partnership, providing support for the chronically ill and relieving the pressure on specialist and hospital services. With the experience gained from the pilot scheme, we will progressively set up district health centres in other districts.

9. The Government will also implement the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) to enable us to adjust the balance between the public and private healthcare sectors. The objective of VHIS is to empower those citizens who are able and willing to use private healthcare services to do so. The VHIS sets out a set of minimum requirements which aims to enhance the accessibility, quality and transparency of hospital insurance. More people will be encouraged to make use of private healthcare services. This, in turn, will allow the public healthcare sector to focus on servicing its target areas and benefit all citizens concerned.

Regulation of Private Healthcare Facilities
10. In tandem with the VHIS, we have to strengthen the regulatory regime for private healthcare facilities. After extensive engagement with the public and other stakeholders, we have introduced the Private Healthcare Facilities Bill into the Legislative Council earlier this year. The Bill will provide for a new regulatory regime covering four types of facilities (namely, hospitals, day procedure centres, clinics and health services establishments) operated by the private sector (including NGOs). We hope that the Legislative Council could finish scrutinising the Bill earlier, so that we could put in place the new regulatory regime as soon as possible.

11. We are also promoting public-private partnerships (PPP) to achieve synergy between the public and private sectors. We have launched a variety of PPP initiatives, such as cataract surgeries PPP programme, haemodialysis PPP programme and general outpatient clinic (GOPC) PPP programme for clinically stable patients having hypertension and diabetes. The GOPC PPP Programme will be extended to all 18 districts in Hong Kong by phases starting from 2016-17.

Empowering Individuals
12. Besides enhancing the synergy between the public and private sectors, we are also educating and empowering individuals to take care of their own health. Action is now on hand to promote healthy diet and physical activity participation, reduce alcohol-related harm and strengthen injury prevention in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, noting that tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death, we have also adopted a combination of legislation, taxation, publicity, education, enforcement and smoking cessation services to control tobacco use.

13. Ladies and gentlemen, as health is the most important asset to every one of us, it is the responsibility for everyone to stay healthy. The Government has been and will continue to work closely with the private sector as well as the community as key partners to achieve universal health coverage. As the Secretary for Food and Health, to safeguard public health, provide quality medical services, ensure food safety and environmental hygiene will be top priorities on my agenda. My team and I will continue to work hard for the betterment of Hong Kong.

14. I wish the Knowledge Event every success. Thank you.