Hon KP on Motion on Improving Primary Health Care
• Hong Kong’s public medical system has always put emphasis on disease treatment and lacked primary healthcare services highlighting prevention and health promotion. Most of the public can enjoy medical protection in the public sector when they fall ill and have the impression that being free from diseases is good health, while only a relatively small number of people will think of ways to prevent diseases and promote their own health. This concept is extremely unhealthy.
• The importance of primary healthcare lies in it being the first line of defence for the public. With a proper line of defence, the public can enjoy a healthy living, whereas the Government can save a substantial amount of expenditure on exorbitant hospitalization and specialist out-patient service. However, if primary healthcare fails to perform as a goalkeeper, patients will flock to the second level of the medical system, thereby leading to a sharp rise in the number of people waiting for specialist treatment and hospitalization. Naturally, healthcare quality will be impacted severely.
• Studies have indicated that regions where primary healthcare is developed more comprehensively can bring better health effectiveness at a lower cost. Meanwhile, improving primary healthcare can effectively reduce the people’s needs for specialist and hospital services and lower medical costs. In the face of an ageing and growing population, Hong Kong cannot avoid a substantial increase in medical expenditure. The Government is seeking to raise revenue and cut expenditure in public-sector medical care, which primary healthcare is a new way forward that Hong Kong must pursue.
• The scope of primary healthcare is extremely wide including treatment for common diseases and injuries, disease prevention and control, delivery of services and education related to public hygiene. After SARS the Government has since paid more attention to primary healthcare, but its emphasis is still on medical care and prevention, with a lack of interest in health promotion. The year before last, I proposed a motion in this Council calling on the Government to promote medical check-ups for the whole community and encourage the public to do more exercise. After the passage of the motion, however, the Government has been evasive in implementing relevant proposals. This aptly reflects the short-sightedness of the Government in this respect.
• The purpose of my amendment is to carry on the spirit of the motion on “Promoting medical check-up for the whole community”. I propose that the Government should inject more resources into efforts in evaluating the health risk of the public with the objective of allowing the public to find out their own health condition and compare the changes in their health, thereby directly inducing them to pay attention to their own health. Laziness is human nature. We tend to pay no attention at all to our own health. We may even think that we can continue to keep ourselves in shape. It is only when we realize there are signs of our health worsening that we can make up our mind to change our living habits. Therefore, I think it is worthwhile for us to promote health risk evaluation for the public.
• The Government may distribute medical vouchers for physical check-ups to members of the public who have reached a certain age. In connection with my motion on “Promoting medical check-up for the whole community”, I proposed that medical check-up service be provided to people aged 40 or above first. Having regard to resource constraints, I propose that medical vouchers for physical check-ups be distributed to people aged 50 or above, so that they can go to medical institutions in the private sector to undergo some simple health examinations.
• Dr LEUNG Ka-lau and Ms Miriam LAU have separately proposed amendments on promoting health screening programmes and encouraging all people to undergo physical check-up. The two amendments are very similar to mine in spirit, I express support.
• Family doctor service is an important link in primary healthcare. When individuals and their family members fall ill, they will go to the same doctor to seek treatment. The doctor concerned can then find out in an in-depth manner the health and psychological conditions of the entire family with a view to delivering comprehensive primary medical service. A patient having received hospitalization or specialist service can also be referred to a private family doctor for follow-up. Nevertheless, people in Hong Kong like constantly switching doctors, and there is no interface between public hospitals and private clinics. It is difficult for family doctors to take over patients who have been discharged or who have received specialist treatment. Hence, in order for primary healthcare to be promoted in Hong Kong, the Government should start with developing the family doctor system.