Motion on “Ten-year Plan for Primary Heathcare” (2022.01.26)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Thank you, Deputy President. The healthcare system in Hong Kong has always been renowned for its quality service and low cost. However, the ever-increasing demand, coupled with society’s over-reliance on the public healthcare system, has riddled the system with problems over time, which include overly long waiting time of specialty cases, constant overcrowding of accident and emergency departments as well as insufficient healthcare staff. Worse still, the ageing population has led to multiplied demand; if the healthcare system is not reformed, it will definitely burst. In fact, the Government is assiduous in putting forward reforms, such as legislating for the admission of overseas-trained doctors, rolling out the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (“VHIS”), implementing the Hospital Development Plan and substantially increasing healthcare expenditure on a yearly basis. But these reforms treat only the symptoms rather than the root cause, and can hardly mitigate the impact brought about by the ageing population in the long run. Therefore, we are very grateful to Ms CHAN Hoi-yan for moving this motion today.

I think the solution must target at the root of the problem. In other words, the demand for healthcare services by members of the public should be reduced, i.e. lowering their chance of falling ill, so that resources can be deployed to the prevention of diseases. Therefore, I absolutely support the approach proposed in the original motion today, which is “more prevention-focused than treatment-oriented”. While Hong Kong people live a long life, they are often afflicted with multiple illnesses when they reach their 50s or 60s. It is mainly attributed to the unhealthy lifestyle of Hong Kong people, including the reluctance to exercise, constant consumption of junk food and staying up late at night. Only a long and healthy life can enable Hong Kong people to live life to the full, and society will in turn be a happier one. Therefore, the Government should implement health policies in this regard.

Last year, I put forth some suggestions to the Government on promoting public health policy, such as advocating public awareness of personal health and hygiene, educating members of the public on knowledge of disease prevention, encouraging them to do more exercises and engage in healthy activities, as well as having body checks more often. In fact, a number of studies show that devoting resources to the promotion of healthy activities will not only reduce people’s chances of falling ill, improve their health and give them a fuller and happier life, but will also directly lower healthcare expenditure. This can truly kill two birds with one stone.

How can these health policies be promoted? I think the first step should be education. At present, schools encourage students to do more exercises but do not attach much importance to educating them on healthy diet. I think schools should enhance students’ knowledge of healthy diet by telling them, for example, the harm of high-sugar beverages and high-fat food on their health, so as to enable them to understand that a lot of snacks are junk food, and that their diets should be nutritionally balanced. These may be cliché but will definitely have an impact on one’s health. If students receive such correct knowledge at a tender age, they will stand to benefit for their whole life. Students indeed are eating too much junk food these days; many of them are already overweight when they are young, and are therefore troubled by numerous illnesses in their middle age. That is why imparting knowledge to students on nutrition and staying healthy is absolutely necessary.

Furthermore, I agree that health indicators should be set to raise people’s awareness of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as proposed in the original motion. As members of the public wear masks, wash their hands more often and pay attention to public hygiene during the epidemic, cases of influenza and its complications have plunged. This is supported by data, which has proven that influenza is closely related to personal hygiene, and that as long as we maintain a healthy lifestyle, we can keep many diseases away.

I also agree that more resources should be allocated to the enhancement of the training for family medicine specialists as family doctors play a significant role in the prevention of diseases. The Government can, for instance, by offering subsidies, encourage members of the public to go to the family doctors in their local communities for some regular basic body checks and further monitoring. This will not only enable early identification of diseases, but will also help family doctors better understand the lifestyle of members of the public, so that they can give more advice on health for disease prevention.

It is proposed in some amendments to the original motion that public-private healthcare partnership should be enhanced to share the pressure of the public healthcare system. I strongly support this point. The Government rolled out VHIS in 2019 with the intention of promoting the sharing of work between public and private healthcare systems. Unfortunately, the Government drastically slashed the amount of subsidy in the end, and removed the proposal of high risk pool (“HRP”), thus shrank the scope of VHIS considerably. Nevertheless, VHIS, with tax deduction, has attracted many from the middle class to join, and can be said to be pretty successful. I believe the Government should now study the expansion of the scope of VHIS by introducing HRP and raising the level of tax deduction for example, so that more members of the public, especially the frequent users of public healthcare services who are financially comfortable, will switch to the private healthcare system. The needy can then use the resources in the public healthcare system. This can further incentivize members of the public who are financially comfortable to join VHIS, thus genuinely achieving the sharing of work between public and private healthcare systems.

Thank you, Deputy President.

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