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LCQ11: Elderly health centres

     Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Kwok-che and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (May 2):


     The Government encourages the elderly to maintain physical and mental well-being, and 18 elderly health centres (EHCs) have been established by the Department of Health in various districts of Hong Kong since 1998, offering a total of some 38 500 membership quotas each year.  Calculated on the basis that there are currently some 940 000 elderly people aged 65 or above in Hong Kong, EHC membership quotas represent only around 4% of the population in that age group.  Moreover, some elderly people have indicated that they are often unable to obtain information about the services provided by EHCs due to ineffective flow of information on such services.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective annual membership quotas, the quotas for accepting new members and the numbers of members from other districts in each EHC in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 (set out in Annex 1);

(b) of the number and rate of member turnover (i.e. the number of members who did not renew their membership and the percentage of which in the total number of members) of various EHCs, as well as the average waiting time required for joining EHC membership in each of the past five years, broken down by EHC;

(c) given that the authorities also acknowledge the keen demand for services provided by EHCs, of the criteria based on which the authorities decide to establish only one EHC in each district; the existing staff establishment of various EHCs;

(d) as some EHC members have complained that they had to wait for as long as 18 months in order to have a physical check-up at an EHC, of the waiting time for such service under the original estimation of the authorities, and the actual average waiting time at present; whether the authorities will provide additional resources to shorten the waiting time required for EHC members to have physical check-ups; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and  

(e) of the existing number of EHCs installed with automatic main entrance doors and the number of those installed with "push open" main entrance doors, and whether the authorities will replace such "push open" doors with automatic doors; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Department of Health (DH) has established 18 Elderly Health Centres (EHCs) in Hong Kong, one in each district, to provide comprehensive primary health care services, including health assessment, physical check-up and curative treatment, to persons aged 65 or above. The focus of the services is on provision of individual counselling and health education to elders with such health risks as propensity to fall, overweight, insufficient physical activities or unhealthy diet.  At present, the 18 EHCs in the territory offer a total of about 38 500 membership quotas each year.

(a) In 2010 and 2011, the total number of members, the number of new members and the number of members from other districts (with residential address in other districts) in each of the 18 EHCs are set out in Annex 2.

(b) Between 2007 and 2011, the number of EHC members in various districts who did not renew their membership and their percentage in the total number of members are set out in Annex 3.

     Between 2007 and 2011, the average waiting time (month) (median) for enrolment as new members of EHCs in various districts are set out in Annex 4.
(c) Since 1998, DH has established 18 EHCs in Hong Kong, one in each district, to enhance primary health care for the elderly.  At present, each EHC has a permanent establishment of one doctor, two to three nurses and one to two clerical staff.

(d) As the service charge of EHCs is very low (the annual membership fee is $110) and is heavily subsidised, there is a huge demand for EHCs' services.  To shorten the waiting time for EHC membership, EHCs have simplified the questionnaire used for health assessment and streamlined the items and procedures of health assessment for existing members, with a view to allocating additional manpower and resources to meet the needs of elders on the waiting list.  To narrow the gap in waiting time among different EHCs, each EHC provides information on those EHCs with shorter waiting time for enrolment as members.  Elders may choose to apply for membership at these EHCs.  After the implementation of the above measures, the waiting time of elders has been reduced significantly.

     The ageing population has led to an ever increasing demand for primary health care services for elders.  The provision of substantially subsidised primary health care services by EHCs is not the most cost-effective and sustainable way to deliver services to elders in Hong Kong. It is also not possible to meet the health care needs of all elders through EHCs alone.  Apart from EHCs, the general out-patient clinics under the Hospital Authority (HA), private medical practitioners and some health centres operated by non-government organisations (NGOs) also provide primary health care services to elders.  At present, promotional and publicity materials on health assessment services offered by NGOs which are reasonably priced are also maintained by each EHC to provide elders with an additional choice.  Under the Elderly Health Services of DH, collaboration with other elderly service providers will continue to be enhanced.  The Government at present has no plan to increase resources for further expansion of the EHC services.

     As at the end of February 2012, the average time lapse from the last health assessment of members receiving health assessments at EHCs in various districts are set out in Annex 5.

     Existing members who do not feel well during the waiting period for health assessment may, at any time, seek medical consultation at EHCs without waiting for the next health assessment.

(e) Among the 18 EHCs under DH, six are located inside HA's general out-patient clinics and do not have separate main doors.  Among the 12 EHCs which have separate main doors, one has adopted the "automatic door" design whereas the other eleven have adopted the "push open door" design.  In collaboration with the relevant departments, we are carrying out improvement works to the barrier-free facilities of these EHCs in two phases in accordance with the Design Manual: Barrier Free Access 2008 of the Buildings Department under the premise of providing convenience to elders, after taking into account factors such as the environment and visitor flow.  It is expected that the improvement works will be completed in 2014.

Ends/Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Issued at HKT 13:33


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