Motion on “Comprehensively Improve the Public Dental Out-patient Services and the Dental Care Scheme” (2008.11.19)

President, as there is now a serious shortage of dental services in Hong Kong, the motion today is very meaningful.

From the information for our discussion today, we can see that the Government’s provision for dental services is obviously much fewer than those for other services. The motion and the various amendments today propose improving the scope of dental services from various perspectives, and such services include examination, scaling, extraction, filling, crowning and endodontic treatment, and the direction of the proposals is very good. They also propose extending the scope of services to people in need aged over 60, which is most desirable.

However, as we all know, the actual situation is that dental services are very expensive, especially crowning and endodontic treatment which often cost thousands of dollars and even more than $10,000. At present, there is an ageing population in Hong Kong and, when we discuss heath care financing, we should understand that there will be a big difference between the actual needs of Hong Kong and our projected needs in 2033. What should be done when there is a severe shortfall in health care expenses? We hope that the Government will formulate a long-term policy on dental services. On the one hand, as the existing services have a narrow scope, improvements are obviously needed. On the other hand, what long-term dental service policy does the Government have in order to cope with the realistic the situation of an ageing population?

Apart from gradual enhancement of services, the Government should consider public-private partnership. Just as Dr LEUNG Ka-lau said earlier, if the Government really has to provide comprehensive services, it may not be able to solve the problems even if it engages the service of all private dentists, and the training up of dentists will take many years. Hence, I hope that the Government will formulate a long-term policy and take complementary actions in talent training. I also hope that the Government will use the services of the insurance sector and engage in public-private collaboration so that the public can have better dental services early.

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