‘DREAM HOSPI­TAL’ COMES OF AGE Pilot HK-Shen­zhen med­i­cal project is hailed as a break­through in cross-bound­ary med­i­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion, Willa Wu re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FO­CUS - Willa@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

The Univer­sity of Hong Kong-Shen­zhen Hospi­tal (HKU-Shen­zhen Hospi­tal) — a ground­break­ing pilot project run by the Univer­sity of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Shen­zhen mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment — rep­re­sents a test­ing ground for op­er­at­ing a hospi­tal with two dif­fer­ent med­i­cal sys­tems, and its de­vel­op­ment in the past five years has been suc­cess­ful, says Hospi­tal Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Lo Chung-mau.

The in­sti­tu­tion, which drew much pub­lic at­ten­tion when it opened in July 2012, is also a splen­did ex­am­ple of how cross­boundar y med­i­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion can bring mu­tual ben­e­fits to Hong Kong and the Chi­nese main­land, Lo tells China Daily in an in­ter­view.

“One plus one can be more than two,” says Lo, who also heads the Liver Trans­plant Cen­tre at the Queen Mary Hospi­tal in Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong, and teaches at the HKU.

The HKU-Shen­zhen Hospi­tal, which serves as a pub­lic hospi­tal in Shen­zhen but sticks to a Hong Kong man­age­ment model and hospi­tal cul­ture, cur­rently has 250 Hong Kong doc­tors, who are li­censed to prac­tice on the main­land and make up about half of the hospi­tal’s to­tal pool of doc­tors em­ployed.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the med­i­cal sys­tems of Hong Kong and Shen­zhen is stark. One ma­jor dif­fer­ence is the way pub­lic hos­pi­tals fi­nance them­selves. In Hong Kong, pub­lic hos­pi­tals are fi­nanced mainly by the govern­ment, while hos­pi­tals on the main­land are re­spon­si­ble for their own prof­its or losses.

Main­land pub­lic hos­pi­tals are, thus, of­ten crit­i­cized for over­charg­ing pa­tients for un­nec­es­sary med­i­ca­tions like an­tibi­otics and in­tra­venous in­jec­tions, as well as dis­pens­able ex­am­i­na­tions us­ing ex­pen­sive med­i­cal de­vices.

“We need to re­spect the main­land sys­tem, but that doesn’ t mean we can’t im­prove on it. Af­ter all, hos­pi­tals are geared to pa­tients, not profit-ori­ented,” stresses Lo.

The HKU-Shen­zhen Hospi­tal has launched re­forms in var­i­ous as­pects, in­clud­ing pric­ing. It pi­o­neered a pack­age pric­ing sys­tem for its out­pa­tient clinic, in­pa­tient de­part­ments, as well as sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures. Pa­tients need to pay a fixed, one-off fee cover­ing stan­dard check-ups, med­i­ca­tion, surgery and con­sul­ta­tion.

“Pack­age pric­ing pre vents doc­tors from pre­scrib­ing un­nec­es­sary med­i­ca­tions and us­ing ex­pen­sive med­i­cal de­vices in treat­ing pa­tients. There­fore, it plays an ef­fec­tive role in cut­ting down pa­tients’ med­i­cal bills,” says Lo.

Cit­ing gall blad­der re­moval surger y, he says the nor­mal rate charged by other Shen­zhen pub­lic hos­pi­tals is close to 20,000 yuan (HK$22,748). At the HKU-Shen­zhen Hospi­tal, it’s just 11,000 yuan. “The sys­tem is re­as­sur­ing for pa­tients. They need not worry about be­ing sub­ject to un­nec­es­sary treat­ment or hav­ing to shoul­der ex­ces­sive med­i­cal bills. It con­trib­utes to bet­ter doc­tor-pa­tient re­la­tions and, even­tu­ally, at­tracts more pa­tients.”

An­other high­light of the pric­ing re­form is rais­ing the con­sul­ta­tion fee as part of the pack­age. Doc­tors in main­land hos­pi­tals gen­er­ally charge pa­tients no more than 10 yuan for con­sul­ta­tion. While spe­cial­ists would charge more, it’s still less than 20 yuan. At the HKU-Shen­zhen Hospi­tal, the con­sul­ta­tion fee is set at 100 yuan.

“The self-fi­nanc­ing sys­tem on the main­land also leads to an­other prob­lem — peo­ple be­lieve medicines are more im­por­tant than doc­tors as they pay more for medicines than doc­tors’ pro­fes­sional ad­vice. We need to cor­rect this wrong con­cept. Doc­tors should be re­warded for their ex­per­tise, not the medicines they pre­scribe,” says Lo.

The HKU-Shen­zhen Hospi­tal is also striv­ing to im­prove main­land med­i­cal sys­tem by in­tro­duc­ing a new ap­point­ment setup — a com­mon prac­tice in Hong Kong but rarely seen in main­land pub­lic hos­pi­tals.

“The book­ing sys­tem of­fers mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits. It main­tains order in hos­pi­tals, guar­an­tees the time doc­tors are as­signed to ev­ery pa­tient and pro­tects pa­tients’ pri­vacy,” Lo ex­plains.

But, to his sur­prise, the prac­tice wasn’t well re­ceived when it was launched. De­spite be­ing re­peat­edly re­minded about the pro­ce­dure, pa­tients still queued up at the hospi­tal as early as 6 am.

“I was con­fused at first, but later found out it was be­cause the pa­tients did not trust the sys­tem. They would rather be­lieve in them­selves rather than in the hospi­tal treat­ing ev­ery pa­tient fairly,” says Lo.

The cold re­sponse, how­ever, did not force the hospi­tal to scrap the pro­ce­dure and it has man­aged to win back the trust of pa­tients. Ac­cord­ing to Lo, about 3 mil­lion pa­tients had been treated at the HKU-Shen­zhen Hospi­tal in the past five years based on the new book­ing sys­tem.

“We hope the Hong Kongstyle man­age­ment would help ease some of the headaches the main­land faces in the med­i­cal field, and this would have a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence on peo­ple’s health,” adds Lo.

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Lo Chung-mau — hospi­tal chief ex­ec­u­tive at the Univer­sity of Hong Kong-Shen­zhen Hospi­tal — says the in­sti­tu­tion is a splen­did ex­am­ple of how cross-bound­ary med­i­cal co­op­er­a­tion can bring mu­tual ben­e­fits to Hong Kong and the Chi­nese main­land.

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