Hong Kong establishes Primary Healthcare Office with new DHCs to be introduced

Hong Kong’s Food and Health Bureau (FHB) announced on March 1, 2019 the establishment of the Primary Healthcare Office (PHO) to oversee and steer the development of primary healthcare services at the bureau level.

“It is high time for us to actively promote primary healthcare services to change the present treatment-oriented healthcare system. The PHO will focus on the development of District Health Centres (DHCs) as a new model to leverage on public-private partnership and medical-social collaboration in providing primary healthcare service, to cater for the needs and characteristics of the districts and enhance public awareness of healthy living, disease prevention and self-management of health,” said a spokesperson for the FHB.

The first DHC in Kwai Tsing is expected to start operation around the third quarter of this year. With the experience gained from the first DHC, the PHO will plan and set up DHCs in all 18 districts progressively.

“The PHO will be responsible for monitoring the performance of DHC operators and driving DHC service development based on evidence and data as well as developing standards. It is also tasked to review the role of different key service providers in primary healthcare and to enhance cross-sectoral and inter-organisational co-ordination, as well as to oversee development and promotion strategies on primary healthcare,” the spokesperson added.

Origins of the Primary Healthcare Office

In her 2017 Policy Address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that the government “will set up a committee on primary healthcare development and its work will include drawing up a model for district-based medical-social collaboration, using big data to identify areas of medical services.” She also mentioned in the same address that the FHB should set up a DHC with a brand new operation mode in Kwai Tsing District within two years.

In November 2017, the FHB established the Steering Committee on Primary Healthcare Development to formulate the development strategy and devise a blueprint for primary healthcare services. It also established the Working Group on DHC Pilot Project in Kwai Tsing District, to provide advice on the planning, implementation and evaluation of the DHC pilot project.

The launch of the DHCs will likely alleviate the manpower and capacity crunch of Hong Kong’s public hospitals, which often operate beyond capacity during winter periods and patients have to endure with long lines and waiting times.

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