MOTION ON “PROMOTING CROSS-BOUNDARY MEDICAL COOPERATION”
Deputy President, the recent years have seen Mainland cities developing rapidly with quality living conditions, and more and more Hong Kong people have chosen to go northward for employment or living. Currently, there are about 500 000 Hong Kong residents residing in the Mainland on a long-term basis, mainly clustering in Mainland cities in the Greater Bay Area (“GBA”).
As the number of people moving to live on the Mainland has gradually increased, coupled with the fact that healthcare services in Hong Kong have always been renowned for their high quality, there is a growing demand for quality cross-boundary healthcare services among Hong Kong people. I thank Mr Kingsley WONG for proposing this motion to urge the Government to proactively adopt measures to enhance the portability of medical benefits and promote cross-boundary medical cooperation. I support the proposals in the motion and the amendments.
Starting from 1 January 2020, Hong Kong residents who work, live and study in the Mainland can participate in social insurance in the Mainland in accordance with the law and enjoy the same treatment as that for Mainland residents. Although it includes “basic medical insurance” under which some of the medical costs incurred can be reimbursed, most elderly people who have moved to the Mainland and suffered chronic illness will choose to seek medical treatment in Hong Kong first. As the Hong Kong hospitals have their detailed medical records, they feel more at ease to return to Hong Kong for follow-up appointments and medication. Rarely do they choose to undergo health checks all over again and have their medical records filed in Mainland hospitals.
Besides, some elderly people with mobility impairment may need the assistance of walking sticks or wheelchairs. Even at times of normal traveller clearance, they still feel exhausted from travelling across the border for medical treatment and this is indeed no more than a stopgap arrangement. While the Special Support Scheme and cross-border use of electronic medical records introduced by the Government are only meant to be special arrangements during the epidemic, as of September this year, about 47 000 people have received consultation services at the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital through the scheme, showing that the actual demand is keen. I have always supported that the scheme be regularized to save the elderly from the ordeal of having to cross the border to attend follow-up medical appointments.
To enhance the portability of medical benefits, it is absolutely far from adequate to limit eligibility to the GBA region and to people with the status of “elderly”. In 2004, the European Union (“EU”) enacted comprehensive legal provisions to ensure the portability of social security benefits among all its member states, meaning that all EU citizens will not suffer any loss of social security benefits for moving within the EU.
While Hong Kong is part of the country, portability of medical and elderly benefits currently applies only to elderly people in Guangdong and Fujian provinces. Actually, other than the Guangdong Province located in GBA, many Hong Kong residents have also chosen to work and live in other provinces. They are Hong Kong permanent residents and yet, unlike elderly people in Guangdong and Fujian, they are not eligible to enjoy portability of medical benefits. In fact, this measure should be extended to other places that are popular dwelling choices of Hong Kong people.
At a relevant meeting of the Subcommittee on Promoting Development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, I suggested that the Government should compile a list of hospitals and medical institutions in Mainland cities for recognition of their diagnosis to enable Hong Kong residents to receive government subsidies for the medical costs incurred in these hospitals and medical institutions. This can reduce their burden of recurrent medical expenses and indirectly relieve the pressure on the local healthcare system.
In view of the fact that the pressure on the Mainland’s healthcare system is no less than ours in Hong Kong as their “Grade 3A” hospitals, like public hospitals in Hong Kong, are always overcrowded, our pressure may be shifted onto the Mainland hospitals if Hong Kong people seek medical treatment in Mainland hospitals. And, as the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital is, for the time being, the only public hospital operating with Hong Kong-styled management in the Mainland, if the Government can consider developing “Hong Kong hospitals” in other cities, I think it will not only provide convenience for Hong Kong people to seek medical treatment directly in the Mainland but also facilitate the development of the local hospitals and improve the medical standards there, and better still, encourage the elderly to retire in Mainland cities. This will be a win-win measure for both Hong Kong and the Mainland cities.
Deputy President, Hong Kong has high-quality healthcare services and a highly effective medical and healthcare system. The Government should continuously give full play to Hong Kong’s strengths in medical and healthcare services, promote cross-boundary medical cooperation, and make concerted efforts to build a “Healthy Hong Kong” and integrate into the country’s “Healthy China Initiative”, thereby making greater contributions to the development of GBA and even to the overall development of the country.
I so submit.