MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese): Deputy President, as Ms Nixie LAM has mentioned just now, we all know that Hong Kong’s life expectancy has been ranked top in the world. Different experts have different interpretations of the contributing factors for this, but it is generally believed that what Hong Kong relies on is neither a good environment with great mountains, clean water and fresh air, nor a particularly healthy Mediterranean lifestyle and diet for longevity. Indeed, it is our excellent public healthcare system with tremendous resources injected by the Government every year, which is indeed the envy of many other regions.
However, with the gradual ageing of Hong Kong’s population, the prevalence of chronic diseases in the community and the trend of private healthcare becoming aristocratic, the demand for public healthcare services continues to grow. Coupled with the long-term shortage of healthcare workers and the reduction of hospital beds, problems such as the accident and emergency departments and medical wards being extremely full have occurred from time to time in recent years, resulting that the pressure faced by public hospitals has been at bursting point as described in the motion. In the foreseeable future, this challenge will only become increasingly intractable, thus leading to an ever heavier financial burden.
I would like to thank Ms CHAN Hoi-yan for moving a motion on primary healthcare and seven Members for proposing their amendments today. They have pointed out the problems faced by Hong Kong’s public healthcare system and put forth policy measures to address the current overloading problem for the Government to follow up. I support the motion and all the contents proposed in the amendments.
Regarding primary healthcare, there are comments that the Government should simultaneously consider how to open up the market to enable healthcare personnel in different professions to give full play to their functions; how to improve the existing mechanism to effectively integrate community health centers (“CHCs”) with general practitioners in the community; how to coordinate the division of responsibilities between public and private medical institutions; and how to enhance public understanding of and trust in primary healthcare organizations such as CHCs. To be frank, all the above are issues that need to be studied and addressed without delay.
Meanwhile, the outbreak of COVID-19 in the past two years has fully exposed the inadequacy of global healthcare resources in the event of an epidemic. In addition to continuously investing in the traditional healthcare system, the Government should immediately explore more modern technological solutions to the dilemmas facing us.
I remember that during a duty visit to Hangzhou in 2019 in the last Legislative Council, we visited a group which provides a one-stop smart medical platform, the first web-based hospital in the country. The group provides various services, including online medical consultation, electronic prescription and online pharmacy; with its vigorous development of “Internet plus Traditional Chinese Medicine” in recent years, the group further introduces some new services, such as electronic medical records, physical examination and aided prescription. What is the conclusion of the delegation in its report? It concludes that in view of the growing demand for healthcare services arising from Hong Kong’s ageing population, the Government should explore all possible measures to strengthen healthcare services and alleviate the workload of healthcare workers, including making optimal use of medical information technology.
As a matter of fact, web-based hospitals can be considered as an integral part of the new medical infrastructure. By transferring medical information from offline to online big data management, the information provided by medical institutions can be consolidated; through online electronic medical record management, medical examination management, convalescent and rehabilitation management and medical workstation management, the service coverage of medical institutions can be broadened and the efficiency of diagnosis, treatment and follow-up rehabilitation and convalescence, as well as health management can be enhanced as a whole.
It is believed that with the major breakthrough in the application of artificial intelligence technology in the medical field, the work pressure on healthcare personnel can be relieved, and the shortage of doctors may possibly be alleviated. In the long run, smart healthcare is definitely the future blueprint of the industry.
To promote healthcare development through innovation and technology, financial investment is indispensable. Regarding the construction of healthcare infrastructure for social services which involves higher investment risk, the Government should explore how to pool together public and private funds to achieve “risk-sharing and win-win cooperation”. For example, the Government provides the land, and the enterprise takes charge of the construction and operation. This model is a better choice for kicking start and integrating new healthcare infrastructure developments.
According to the definition provided by the Government, primary healthcare entails the provision of accessible, comprehensive, continuing, coordinated and person-centred care for members of the public in the community where they live and work, which contributes to health promotion among them. I hope the Government will no longer adopt the mindset and policy of making patchwork remedies. Rather, it must formulate an overall and forward-looking plan and set well-planned, long-term and comprehensive targets for monitoring and prevention, so that the original intent of primary healthcare services can be truly achieved.
I so submit. Thank you, Deputy President.