Hong Kong private clinics that want to provide medical services slow to apply for licence, officials say

·3-min read

Only half of the private clinics in Hong Kong that want to provide specialised medical services have applied for a licence to do so, the regulator responsible for overseeing them has revealed.

According to government statistics, 167 provisional and 43 full licences for day procedure centres were issued by the end of September, with 37 applications pending, accounting for only half of the 400 to 500 centres estimated by the Department of Health when they laid out the ordinance.

During the same period, the Office for Regulation of Private Health Care Facilities received 14 complaints regarding private hospitals and day procedure centres since new licensing rules took effect in January.

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Facilities that do not have a licence by June next year cannot carry out eight invasive procedures.

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“Some centres may only carry out the specialised services a few times a month, therefore, they would choose to register as a clinic and refer their patients to the other licensed centres instead of getting a day procedure centre licence,” Sarah Choi Mei-yee, the regulator’s head, said.

Choi added that some centres might have closed down during the coronavirus pandemic.

The ordinance mainly regulates premises where registered medical practitioners and dentists work. It stipulates that eight specialised services, including anaesthetic procedures and haemodialysis, must take place in a licensed hospital or day procedure centre.

The other six procedures are chemotherapy, interventional radiology and lithotripsy, surgery, endoscopy, dental procedures and radiotherapy.

The ordinance stipulates that eight specialised services, such as anaesthetic procedures and haemodialysis must take place in a licensed hospital or day procedure centre. Photo: Shutterstock
The ordinance stipulates that eight specialised services, such as anaesthetic procedures and haemodialysis must take place in a licensed hospital or day procedure centre. Photo: Shutterstock

A beauty parlour that provides medical services must apply for a day procedure centre or clinic licence, depending on what it provides.

Choi said the number of applications had slowed, adding she believed most centres had already applied or were clear about the process for doing so, as her office had held briefings for private doctors.

Officials commented on the licensing progress weeks after a doctor was jailed for six years for manslaughter over a fatal liposuction procedure at a beauty centre in 2014.

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Dr Vanessa Kwan Hau-chi was the third doctor in five years to go to prison for manslaughter by gross negligence relating to a botched beauty treatment, sparking calls for the regulation of private health care facilities.

Choi said the office had conducted about 180 inspections of licensed centres. Of the 14 complaints it received, 13 targeted private hospitals and one involved a day procedure centre.

Complaints focused mainly on staff performance, communication and charges. Two of the complaints were withdrawn.

No regulatory breach at a high-risk level had been found since January, the department said, but authorities had issued advisory letters on eight minor violations, including for having incomplete medical records.

Complaints against private centres in Hong Kong mostly centred around staff performance and charging. Photo: Shutterstock
Complaints against private centres in Hong Kong mostly centred around staff performance and charging. Photo: Shutterstock

“Most of the complaints and violations did not involve serious incidents, they were mostly on billing or communication issues. They are easily solved if both parties are open and willing to discuss the matter,” Choi said.

Asked whether the government should mandate that medical beauty services and plastic surgery be conducted by a specialist, Choi said that was a decision for the Food and Health Bureau and the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine.

Choi said she believed the number of specialised services covered in the ordinance was enough.

“We have covered the incidents that happened in the past in the ordinance,” she said. “We have the responsibility to monitor development in the industry and update the list accordingly. Although I cannot promise that it must be perfect, we will do our best to follow up.”

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