In 2017, we reached out to a number of healthcare professionals – listening to their professional views on and insights into several pressing issues that they are concerned about. One thing that caught our attention is – regardless of their healthcare profession – every one is working hard; striving towards the mission of: maximising the role of the profession, improving the healthcare industry; and, ultimately, driving Hong Kong to becoming a city that we are proud to live in.

2017 is now over; and, we would like to share with you a compilation of our #Top7 leading insights (based on the page views contributed by your peers) into Hong Kong healthcare industry.

1. More than just manpower shortage

The medical wards were severely overburdened during the summer of 2017 due to the influenza peak season. While many, including the government, have pointed out shortage of doctors as one of the main causes of the overburden – Dr Pierre Chan, a member of the Legislative Council (LegCo) representing the medical sector, remained doubtful.

Dr Pierre Chan responded to the government’s healthcare manpower report in the Legislative Council’s meeting.
Dr Pierre Chan responded to the government’s healthcare manpower report in the Legislative Council’s meeting.

“I’m not trying to protect doctors’ interest by limiting the number of doctors. The problem is, even if we do increase the supply of doctors, we cannot guarantee they will join the toughest departments in deep water,” he explained.

Read this interview to uncover the root causes of the recurring issue of overburden in public hospitals.

2. Peer support trumps all

“A senior doctor once reminded me: When you look back after having practised for eight to 10 years, you will realise your dearest friends will still be your peers, those whom you studied with and experienced peaks and troughs together through the journey of medical student to houseman,” echoed Dr Emily Chi-Wan Hung, one of the Hong Kong Ten Outstanding Young Persons in 2015.

Dr Emily Hung reminds medical students of choosing specialties that can keep them interested when they are making that choice. By interest, she means that they won’t lose the motivation and persistence, even when repeating the same task every day.
Dr Emily Hung reminds medical students of choosing specialties that can keep them interested when they are making that choice. By interest, she means that they won’t lose the motivation and persistence, even when repeating the same task every day.

In an interview with MIMS, Hung explained how ‘collective efforts’ can help medical students master an overwhelming amount of material in a limited amount of time, as well as preventing doctors from making dangerous mistakes in hospitals’ nerve-wracking environment.

3. PPP crucial to maximising the role of pharmacists

According to the Strategic Review on Healthcare Manpower Planning & Professional Development report, pharmacists will most likely be the only healthcare professionals to observe excess numbers in the next 10 years.

In view of the situation, William Chun-Ming Chui, President of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Hong Kong (SHPHK), comments the role of pharmacists in Hong Kong is underutilised. Due to insufficient manpower – and the need to handle more than 2,000 prescriptions a day at specialist outpatient departments – it’s impossible for us to review patients’ drug profiles or handle their drug-related problems,” he said.

(left – right) Honorary Assoc. Prof. William CHUI, Producer, Ms Ellen LAI, Main Actress and Ms Cherrie Li, Director of micro-movie production.
(left – right) Honorary Assoc. Prof. William CHUI, Producer, Ms Ellen LAI, Main Actress and Ms Cherrie Li, Director of micro-movie production.

Chui also explained in the interview how Public Private Partnership (PPP) can bring quality pharmaceutical care to the community level, creating a win-win situation for the future development of pharmacists in Hong Kong. SHPHK has also released the first-ever micro movie on hospital pharmacists in March 2017. Get to know their behind-the-scenes here!

4. Shortage of general nurses is largely underestimated

“The current average nurse-to-in-patient ratio in acute hospital unit is 1:10, which is far below the international standard of 1:4 – 5. During peak seasons, such as the winter surge period of influenza, the hospital occupancy may even reach 120% to 140%,” highlighted Professor Sek-Ying Chair, Director of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s Nethersole School of Nursing.

Professor Sek-Ying Chair said the current nurse-to-patient ratio is unable to meet the needs in reality.
Professor Sek-Ying Chair said the current nurse-to-patient ratio is unable to meet the needs in reality.

In this interview, Chair listed the top three reasons to explain why the manpower forecast released by the government is less convincing. She also further shared her advice for nurses in overcoming stress at work.

5. Palliative care is not inactive care

Dr Antony Chi-Tat Leung, Medical Superintendent of Haven of Hope Sister Annie Skau Holistic Care Centre (SASHCC), shared with MIMS his perspectives on what can be done to promote the concept of palliative care to the general public and healthcare professionals – despite the fact that there is only a total of roughly 450 beds offering palliative and hospice care services to patients, but with over 40,000 deaths per year in the city.

Dr Antony Chi-Tat Leung and Dr Kin-Shing Wong, Medical Superintendent and Deputy Medical Superintendent of Haven of Hope Sister Annie Skau Holistic Care Centre (SASHCC).
Dr Antony Chi-Tat Leung and Dr Kin-Shing Wong, Medical Superintendent and Deputy Medical Superintendent of Haven of Hope Sister Annie Skau Holistic Care Centre (SASHCC).

Specifically, Leung reminded in the interview that there is one sentence that healthcare professionals should not say to their patients: “Sorry, I cannot help you anymore.

“Instead of saying this to the patient, try to say: “We cannot cure your cancer. However, we can continue to care for you as a person. We can relieve your physical symptoms, supporting you and walk with you till the very end.” Yes, it is very unlikely we can heal the patient. But, we can at least let patients know that their lives do matter to us,” he emphasised.

6. AR Scheme to assure the protection of the vulnerable public

In Hong Kong, some healthcare professions such as clinical psychologists are not subject to statutory regulation in Hong Kong. It was until 2016 that the government introduced a voluntary accredited registers scheme (AR Scheme) – allowing allied health professions to get accredited.

Dr Charles Pau (first from right, back row) and Dr Kitty Wu (first from left, front row) in a meeting with Professor Sophia Siu-chee Chan (third from left, front row), Secretary for Food and Health and Dr Tak-yi Chui (fourth from left, front row), Under Secretary for Food and Health.
Dr Charles Pau (first from right, back row) and Dr Kitty Wu (first from left, front row) in a meeting with Professor Sophia Siu-chee Chan (third from left, front row), Secretary for Food and Health and Dr Tak-yi Chui (fourth from left, front row), Under Secretary for Food and Health.

In this next interview with Dr Charles Wai-Ho Pau, Vice Chair (Membership & Professional Standard) of Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) at Hong Kong Psychological Society (HKPS) and Dr Kitty Wu, Chair of the Subcommittee on Accredited Clinical Psychology Training of DCP, HKPS – he shared with MIMS the significance of AR Scheme to clinical psychologists and allied health professionals – and more importantly, how they utilise this opportunity to help protect public’s interest.

7. Intradisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration key in patient care

“The government has been promoting primary care; but, it only focuses on enhancing the role of family doctors,” explained Karen Lau, one of the founders of Pharmacists Connect, a group of young and passionate pharmacists with the common passion and drive to shape the future of pharmacy in Hong Kong. “The government should also consider promoting the roles of all allied health professionals,” she said in an interview with MIMS.

Pharmacists Connect is a platform for pharmacists of different sectors to network and to engage young pharmacists in shaping the future of the pharmacy profession.
Pharmacists Connect is a platform for pharmacists of different sectors to network and to engage young pharmacists in shaping the future of the pharmacy profession.

The group is also targeting to reflect the voices of all young pharmacists in the city – uniting them under one umbrella. “Many times when a graduate manages to find a stable job, he or she will no longer be interested in participating in discussions on public health issues,” shared Matthew Wong, another founder of the group. “We want to empower the silent majority,” continued Jason Tong.

Read on to learn more about their mission in reshaping the future of pharmacy and healthcare in Hong Kong. MIMS

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Public or private? Do Hong Kong patients have a choice?
2017 in review: Hong Kong’s top 10 health industry highlights of the year
The struggle against smoking and the growing threat of e-cigarettes in Hong Kong