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Gov’t to step up medical efforts

December 17, 2017

Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Hong Kong is very blessed with a high-quality, cost-effective medical and healthcare system. Over these next five years, I am determined to preserve and enhance it for the people of Hong Kong.


There is no shortage of issues we must face and solve if we are to maintain our standards and our international recognition. Our population is ageing, healthcare costs are rising, our public hospitals are overloaded and our healthcare staff woefully stretched. I saw the situation myself when I visited the Queen Elizabeth Hospital during this July's summer flu, just two weeks after my taking office. Prior to that, I also heard first-hand the grievances of our front-line public doctors who are members of the Election Committee.


Two months ago, I presented my first Policy Address as Chief Executive. In it, I shared my governance philosophy and addressed the policies and priorities to be tackled over the next five years. In healthcare, my Government will allocate resources to actively promote primary healthcare, enhance public health regulation and promote advancements in medical technology. I don't think there is enough time for me to go through all the measures but just let me stress that they are conceived in accordance with my belief in the provision of social services: that we should promote cross-sector and cross-profession collaboration as well as public-private partnership to make better use of our resources and provide more comprehensive care for the needy in society. I also pointed out that as public resources are not without limits, the policies and measures for improving people's livelihood are not merely a matter of supply and demand, but they also involve the issue of resource allocation which the community must not shy away from.


Gov’t to boost medical efforts        

Putting this belief in the healthcare sector, the Government is determined to step up efforts to promote individual and community involvement, enhance co-ordination among various medical and social sectors, and strengthen primary healthcare services particularly at the district-level. Through these measures, we aim to encourage the public to take precautionary measures against diseases, enhance their capability in self-care and home care, and reduce the demand for hospitalisation. A steering committee on primary healthcare development chaired by the Secretary for Food & Health was established last month to oversee our work in this area.


Pending a major shift to primary healthcare, and significant advancement in cross-sector collaboration and public-private partnership, we could not afford to turn a blind eye to the overloaded situation in our public hospitals. The Government will devote more resources to enhance the infrastructure and manpower to improve the public sector supply. In particular, we will introduce a new arrangement by undertaking to increase the recurrent funding for the Hospital Authority progressively on a triennium basis, having regard to population growth rates and demographic changes. On manpower, the Hospital Authority will fulfil my pledge to employ all qualified medical graduates and provide them with relevant specialist training. The HA will make every effort to retain existing and rehire retired healthcare professionals as appropriate. It will also proactively recruit qualified non-locally trained doctors through limited registration to provide clinical services in the public healthcare system.


On the regulatory and manpower fronts, one of the foreseeable enhancements will be in the form of the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2017. After some intensive efforts made by the new administration, I am pleased to say that we have reached broad consensus with stakeholders in October this year on the composition of the Medical Council. Now that the controversies in the past months over amendments to the Legislative Council (LegCo) Rules of Procedure to mitigate filibustering have been settled, I hope that LegCo, through the Bills Committee chaired by the Honourable Tommy Cheung, will complete its scrutiny of the bill as soon as possible.


In recent months, I have been talking a lot about innovation and technology as a priority area for my Government. Indeed, application of innovation and technology to grow the economy and address social issues has no boundary and healthcare has been identified as one of our target areas. We believe there is great potential for Hong Kong in furthering the development of biomedicine technology. The convergence of biotechnology, information technology, engineering and nanotechnology offers more effective means for preventing, diagnosing, treating and monitoring diseases.


My Government is thus committed to developing innovative biomedical technology. We'll do it by turning Hong Kong into a centre of innovation and technology. And we've made a good start at that, laying down a solid foundation. The Hong Kong Science Park is home to about 100 international and local biomedical technology companies. That's nearly double the number in 2015.


From overseas, the Ming Wai Lau Centre for Reparative Medicine, the first offshore research facility of Sweden's renowned Karolinska Institutet, is now into its second year in the Science Park. Karolinska is focused on research in stem-cell biology, biomedical engineering, biotechnology and regenerative medicine.


From the Mainland of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine & Health has set up the Guangzhou-Hong Kong Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Research Centre at Science Park. And among the 16 Partner State Key Laboratories established in Hong Kong universities, nearly two-thirds specialise in biomedical technology and related areas.


Human trials conducted at our two teaching hospitals – Queen Mary and Prince of Wales – and the Hong Kong Eye Hospital can be used to support new drug applications to the China Food & Drug Administration. That, ladies and gentlemen, gives Hong Kong a singular advantage in the research and development of biomedical technology.


I am glad to note that, at the end of July, 430 applied R&D projects, with total funding of about HK$832 million, were approved by our Innovation & Technology Fund. They will support research ranging from molecular diagnostics and drug discovery and development, to medical devices, the modernisation of traditional Chinese medicine and bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing.


Biomedical tech holds promise      

In short, we're fully engaged, because I believe this is our moment – Hong Kong's time to tap into the vast promise of biomedical technology. If we succeed, it will not only help raise the healthcare standard in Hong Kong. It will also help us develop related industries and contribute to the human kind. There will be a lot of opportunities in front of us, especially in the context of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area development – the most affluent region in the Mainland today where a growing middle-class population will have huge demands for quality medical services. I look forward to joining hands with our medical institutions and professionals in grasping these opportunities.


Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the "130 Years of Medicine in Hong Kong" Homecoming Dinner to celebrate the 130th Anniversary of the Medical Faculty of The University of Hong Kong on December 17.