HA vows to reduce waiting times for specialist care - RTHK
Temperature Humidity
News Archive Can search within past 12 months

HA vows to reduce waiting times for specialist care

2022-06-17 HKT 08:34
Share this story facebook
  • HA vows to reduce waiting times for specialist care
The Hospital Authority (HA) has pledged to shorten the waiting times for patients to receive specialist care, saying it's not ideal that some new patients need to wait around two years for their appointments.

According to HA figures in March, new patients faced a maximum wait of about two years and two months before they could see a general internal medicine doctor. The wait was almost two years for surgery, eye, and ear, nose and throat patients.

Lau Ka-hin, a chief manager with the HA, said there were shorter waiting times at some of the clinics in late 2021, as manpower was beefed up to work through the queues. He said the figures continued to fall during the fifth wave of the pandemic, but started to rebound lately.

"Effectiveness of the short-term measures can be seen in the fourth quarter of 2021... But now we will devote more attention and efforts to develop the medium and long-term measures in order to maintain the sustainability [of services]," he said.

Lau said in order to provide timely medical care, they had set up more than a hundred integrated clinics for patients suffering from 19 forms of illnesses to see a nurse or other medical professional before their doctor's appointment.

For example, he said elderly people with hearing problems might have to wait a year or so for their specialist clinic bookings, but they could see nurses and audiologists in an integrated clinic and have hearing aids fitted within half year.

Lau said the HA would go on to set up more such clinics in different disciplines.

He said specialist doctors would also advise family doctors on the conditions of patients, to reduce unnecessary referrals to specialist out-patient clinics (SOPCs).

"In the past, most of the patients who have complaints of very simple symptoms or some discomfort would be referred to the specialist out-patient clinics, and this would generate a lot of new cases," he explained.

"The specialists will go to the family medicine clinic to talk with the doctors as well as the patients to learn the problems of the patients... They will also give some advice on how to manage the patients. If this works, the patients will not be referred to the SOPC and then we can shorten the waiting time."

Lau said the HA also referred some 500 patients to private healthcare practitioners in a partnership with the sector, to free up appointments for other patients.