Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China and operates under a “one country, two systems” framework of government under which it exercises autonomy for its affairs except in foreign affairs and defense. Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, is a prosperous, densely populated, regional financial and trade center. It boasts a well-developed, high-quality system of public and private hospitals that together provide over 31,000 inpatient hospital beds for a population in excess of 7 million. Hong Kong currently subsidizes approximately 95 percent of the total cost of health care for Hong Kong residents. As the government continues public consultation on comprehensive healthcare reform, it will emphasize upgrading and expanding its health care system to keep pace with demographic changes and consolidating its position as a prime medical center for the region.
Demands on Hong Kong’s healthcare are expected to increase given its aging population, the increase in the prevalence of cancer and other chronic diseases related to ageing and lifestyle, the rising incidence of acute illness and mental illness in Hong Kong’s fast-paced urban environment, plus the growing demand for neonatal and obstetric services. Hong Kong has also invested heavily in infectious disease control given the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) earlier this decade and remains on the alert for potential outbreaks of other emerging infectious diseases.
As a result, the government is planning several new hospital projects that may present opportunities for U.S. suppliers of hospital architectural services, and medical technologies and equipment.
Hong Kong’s population is projected to reach 7.8 million by 2020. The territory’s population density is 6,410 persons per square kilometer, with almost 95 percent of the population located in urban areas. Health indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality are among the best in the world. Life expectancy for males in Hong Kong was 78.5 years, and for females was 84.3 years as of 2003. Hong Kong’s rapidly aging population will generate greater health care needs and is one of many reasons the Government is embarking on comprehensive healthcare reform. According to the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, the proportion of the population aged 65 and over will rise markedly from 12 percent in 2006 to 26 percent in 2036. The growing number of births and the in-flow of one-way permit holders from mainland China who legally take up residence in Hong Kong also contributes significantly to Hong Kong’s population growth and demand for health care services.
The major chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – cancer, disease of heart, stroke, and cerebrovascular diseases – accounted for 57.7% of all registered deaths in 2007. Since the outbreaks of SARS in early 2003, Hong Kong’s Department of Health has made significant investment in infectious disease control prevention and containment. It remains on high alert for new outbreaks of communicable diseases, such as acute gastroenteritis, influenza-like illnesses and hand-foot-mouth disease. Hong Kong also shows a rising incidence of acute illnesses and mental illness.
Hong Kong has 38 public hospitals which provide a total of 27,555 beds, and 12 private hospitals which provide 3,596 beds, for an average of 5.2 beds per thousand people. A substantial number of foreign nationals in Hong Kong’s expatriate community utilize in-patient services of both public and private hospitals. In 2006, the number of bed-days utilized by non–eligible persons (NEPs)* was 43,210 in public hospitals and 90,914 in private hospitals. Before February 2007, about two-thirds of NEPs, who came mostly from mainland China, utilized public hospital facilities for obstetric services. Since then, after the Government implemented new obstetric services charges for NEPs, non-local women using public hospitals dropped by 29.4% from February to December 2007 while NEP reliance on private hospitals, which charge substantially higher fees, has increased. Hong Kong also hosts some 28 million visitors annually, including business people and tourists from around the globe, who also utilize Hong Kong services and facilities.
For the above reasons, the Hong Kong Government will continue its active program to re-develop or expand its existing hospitals and to encourage construction of new hospitals to accommodate increasing demand.
In his October 15, 2008 policy speech for the 2008-09 fiscal year, Chief Executive Donald Tsang addressed the need for healthcare reform and indicated that the government plans to launch the second stage of public consultation on this issue in the first half of 2009 as it seeks to forge a consensus on healthcare financing. The Chief Executive said the government will encourage and facilitate the development of private hospitals. It is currently identifying suitable sites that initially include Wong Chuk Hang, Tseung Kwan O, Tai Po and North Lantau. The government will invite expressions of interest and proposals on hospital development from the private sector. The government also plans to implement a series of pilot measures to promote public-private partnerships, including purchasing primary care services and hospital services from the private sector, subsidizing the public for preventive care provided by the private sector and establishing medical centers of excellence in pediatrics and neuroscience.
By Loretta Marut