Budget Speech


139.    Apart from land and housing, healthcare is another issue of utmost concern to the community.  The Government has increased its recurrent expenditure on healthcare by an average of seven per cent over the past decade.  A 10-year hospital development plan amounting to $200 billion has also commenced.  The expenditure on public healthcare services will increase by 13.3 per cent to $71.2 billion in 2018-19, accounting for 17.5 per cent of total recurrent expenditure.

Hospital Authority

140.    An additional recurrent funding of nearly $6 billion will be allocated to the Hospital Authority (HA) in 2018-19 to increase the number of hospital beds, operating theatre sessions, the quota for general out-patient and specialist out-patient services and the manpower required.  The Government will progressively increase the recurrent provision for the HA on a triennium basis, having regard to population growth and demographic changes.  This will enable more effective resource planning by the HA.  To tackle the recent influenza surge, the HA has deployed $500 million for implementing relief measures to alleviate the work pressure on frontline healthcare personnel.  The HA will also examine the abolition of the policy on incremental pay freeze in the first two years of service in respect of certain new recruits, so as to boost morale and retain staff.  I will ensure the availability of adequate resources.

Public Healthcare Facilities

141.    In the light of an increasing demand for healthcare services, I have invited the HA to start planning the second 10-year hospital development plan instead of waiting for the mid-term review of the first 10-year plan to be conducted in 2021.  The second 10-year plan will cover the study of in-situ redevelopment of Princess Margaret Hospital and Tuen Mun Hospital, construction of a new hospital at the King's Park site (i.e. the existing Queen Elizabeth Hospital site) and expansion of North Lantau Hospital.  It is expected to deliver 3 000 to 4 000 additional hospital beds, provide additional facilities and quota for consultation.

142.    The Government will also plan for other public healthcare facilities such as community health centres and ambulatory care centres, and improve the clinic facilities under the Department of Health (DH) by phases.

Healthcare Manpower Training

143.    Over the past decade, the number of University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded healthcare training places has substantially increased by about 60 per cent to almost 1 800, of which the number of bachelor degree places in medicine has increased from 250 to 470, representing a rise of almost 90 per cent.  The Government is discussing with the UGC further increase in publicly-funded training places for doctors, dentists, nurses and relevant allied health professionals in the coming three years.  The Government has invited the universities concerned and the Prince Philip Dental Hospital to actively consider further enhancing and increasing teaching facilities so as to expand their capacity for healthcare manpower training.

144.    To support the second 10-year hospital development plan, improve the clinic facilities in DH, and upgrade and increase healthcare teaching facilities, I have set aside a sum of $300 billion as an initial provision.

145.    There will be a total of over 2 000 medical graduates in the coming five years. I will ensure that the HA has adequate resources to employ all local medical graduates.  Some additional $200 million will be allocated each year to enhance the healthcare professional training provided by the HA, including clinical practicum, as well as specialist and higher training.

Community Healthcare Services

146.    The Government is conducting a comprehensive review of the planning for primary healthcare services with a view to drawing up a blueprint.  The first district health centre will be set up in Kwai Tsing District in the third quarter of next year, after which we will progressively set up such centres in all 18 districts.  Provision of community healthcare services can raise public awareness of personal health management, enhance disease prevention and strengthen medical and rehabilitation services in the community, thereby reducing unwarranted use of hospital services.  I will set aside necessary resources to fully support this initiative.

Controlling Non-communicable Diseases and Promoting Mental Health

147.    I will provide an additional annual funding of $100 million for the DH to promote a healthy lifestyle in the community in order to reduce non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. At the same time, the DH will promote mental health and enhance public education to minimise stigmatisation.

Dental Services

148.    The Government will provide about $54 million to launch a three-year project for more NGOs to provide free oral check-ups, dental treatments and oral health education for adults with intellectual disability.  We will also increase the funding for the Prince Philip Dental Hospital to provide special care training for participating dentists and dental surgery assistants.  I have asked the departments concerned to improve existing dental care services for the elderly.

Elderly Health Care Vouchers

149.    The accumulation limit of Elderly Health Care Vouchers will be raised from $4,000 to $5,000 in 2018 to allow greater flexibility to users.  In 2018-19, I will provide, on a one-off basis, an additional $1,000 worth of vouchers to eligible elderly persons, which will involve an expenditure of about $796 million.  Elderly Health Care Vouchers can be used on services provided by medical practitioners, dentists and Chinese medicine practitioners in the non-public sector.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Programme

150.    The Colorectal Cancer Screening Pilot Programme enables early identification of sufferers and high-risk individuals.  The Government will regularise the Programme and progressively extend it to cover individuals aged between 50 and 75.  This initiative will incur a total expenditure of $940 million over the coming five years.

Development of Chinese Medicine

151.    I propose to establish a $500 million fund to promote the development of Chinese medicine by providing support in areas such as applied research, Chinese medicine specialisation, knowledge exchange and cross-market co-operation, and helping local Chinese medicines traders with the production and registration of Chinese proprietary medicines.  The Chinese Medicine Unit to be set up by the Food and Health Bureau (FHB) will be responsible for the co-ordination work.

Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme

152.    The FHB will announce the details of the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme shortly.  I propose to provide a tax deduction for people who purchase eligible health insurance products for themselves or their dependants under the Scheme.  The annual tax ceiling of premium for tax deduction is $8,000 per insured person.

Subsidising Drug Treatments

153.    In recent years, the HA has carried out appraisals of new drugs and expanded the coverage of the Drug Formulary regularly.  It will closely monitor the R&D of new drugs and the related medical evidence so that patients can receive appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

154.    The Community Care Fund (CCF) has launched an assistance programme to provide eligible patients with subsidies for the purchase of ultra-expensive drugs (including those for treating uncommon diseases).  It will also extend the scope of the programme to subsidise individual patients with special clinical needs in using specific drugs.  The HA will complete a review of the patient's co-payment mechanism under the CCF's programme in the first half of this year and propose improvement measures.  I will set aside $500 million for this purpose.



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