Professor Sophia Chan, Secretary for Food and Health, provided an update on the latest development of the Hong Kong’s first Chinese medicine hospital in the Legislative Council (LegCo) on 12 July.

Resolving issues on collaboration between Chinese medicine practitioners and Western medicine doctors

Back in February 2013, the Chinese Medicine Development Committee (CDMC) was formed to provide expert recommendation to the government regarding the future directions of TCM in Hong Kong.

The plan to establish the hospital in Tseung Kwan O was later announced in 2014 Policy Address—one year after the formation of the committee. The initiative symbolised a significant move in demonstrating the government’s commitment to encourage the development of the TCM sector in the city.

In Mainland China, TCM has been put in place in nation-wide healthcare systems since 1954. Nevertheless, it is not the same case for Hong Kong.

“There is no relevant experience in Hong Kong in planning the development of a TCM hospital and the healthcare system of Hong Kong is different from those in the Mainland and overseas countries in terms of legal and regulatory regimes, there is no identical precedent to model on,” expressed Chan, in LegCo.

For Hong Kong, the TCM hospital is also an opportunity for Chinese and Western medicine to work together and improve patient’s quality of care.

“The purpose is to give TCM and Western medicine doctors a chance to work out the details on how they can really cooperate with each other,” quoted a source from inside the Food and Health Bureau back in 2014.

In the same year, the government worked together with CDMC and launched an Integrated Chinese-Western Medicine (ICWM) Pilot Programme. The programme was introduced to explore how TCM principles can be implemented alongside well-established Western principles of medicine.

Nevertheless, from the recent updates, there are areas which still need to be examined when the ICWM model with Chinese medicine having the predominant role is put into clinical practice. These include collaboration between Chinese medicine practitioners and Western medicine doctors, design of clinical pathways, clinical accountability, review and monitoring systems, patients' safety and rights, and ways to handle the assessment, treatment and follow-up of patients in different treatment episodes under the ICWM approach.

The above issues involve complicated legal and insurance matters, which require thorough study and discussion. The adoption of evidence-based medicine will also be a major challenge to the whole project.

Who is operating the Chinese medicine hospital?

In 2016, the government invited expressions of interest from non-profit making organizations that are interested in developing and administrating the TCM hospital. However, the plan didn’t fall through with organisations raising concerns on their financial capability in undertaking this project.

The following year, in the 2017 policy address, the government then announced that it would pay for the construction of the hospital – and has put the Hospital Authority (HA) responsible for scouting a suitable organisation to administrate the hospital.

As of April this year, HA has enlisted the services of an international consulting company to take into consideration the views of all stakeholders. The activity is expected to finalise by the end of this year.

“Upon completion of the consultation and the analysis report, we will further map out the direction for developing the Chinese medicine hospital with the HA and relevant parties, and formulate a set of operational requirements which are practicable and in line with the operational considerations of the Chinese medicine sector before rolling out the open tender procedures,” Chan explained. MIMS

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