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Budget Speech


123.    Over the past five years, Government's recurrent allocation to the Hospital Authority (HA) has increased by $15 billion, or nearly 50 per cent.  The total recurrent provision for 2014-15 exceeds $47 billion.

124.    On infrastructure, we commenced the construction of Tin Shui Wai Hospital and Hong Kong Children's Hospital.  The preparatory works for the expansion of United Christian Hospital and redevelopment of Kwong Wah Hospital have started.  We shall seek this Council's funding approval for the redevelopment of Queen Mary Hospital and Kwai Chung Hospital, as well as the expansion of Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service Headquarters.  We shall spend $55 billion on these projects as part of an ongoing effort to improve public healthcare facilities and provide 1 400 additional hospital beds.  Besides, we are conducting strategic studies on the construction of an acute general hospital in the Kai Tak Development Area.  In the longer term, the HA will start planning for the redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth Hospital and phase two redevelopment project of Prince of Wales Hospital to address the community's long term demand for healthcare services.

125.    A grant of $13 billion was approved by this Council in late 2013 for the HA to improve and upgrade its facilities over the next ten years.  This covers the renovation of over 500 wards in 34 hospitals; provision of around 800 additional beds in 11 hospitals; expansion of operating theatres, accident and emergency departments, and general out-patient clinics; and setting up additional endoscopy centres and ambulatory facilities, etc.  The HA will also comprehensively upgrade the major electrical and mechanical engineering installations in hospitals and strengthen the Universal Accessibility Programme.  It is estimated that the grant will be used to implement about 5 000 projects.  These projects will complement the major new hospital and hospital redevelopment projects to prepare for an ageing population.

126.    In pursuit of the healthy and sustainable development of our dual-track healthcare system, Government is considering a voluntary health protection scheme to encourage those who can afford it to make greater use of private healthcare services.  I pledged in the 2008-09 Budget to earmark $50 billion to support healthcare reform.  The Food and Health Bureau will shortly consult the public on the details of the scheme.  I shall consider providing tax reliefs for subscribers of regulated insurance products after a consensus is reached in the community.

127.    Disease prevention and control forms an important line of defence in public health.  Government has endeavoured to strengthen primary care, including proactively promoting healthy living, as well as strengthening disease prevention strategies and surveillance systems, with a view to lowering risks of disease and hence expenditure on healthcare.  In the coming five years, Government will allocate additional funding of over $420 million for the study and implementation of a pilot programme to subsidise colorectal cancer screening for specific age groups.

128.    Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others point out that increasing tobacco duty is an effective means of tobacco control to lower the health risks of the public.  It helps reduce direct medical expenses caused by smoking and second-hand smoking.  To safeguard public health, I propose to increase the duty on cigarettes by 20 cents per stick with immediate effect.  This will bring the proportion of tobacco duty to the retail price of cigarettes to about 70 per cent which meets the minimum level recommended by  WHO.  I wish to emphasise that this is not a budgetary measure to increase revenue.  We shall continue to strengthen smoking cessation services, as well as publicity and law enforcement on tobacco control.  The Customs and Excise Department will step up enforcement against different forms of illicit cigarette trading.



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