Docs fear uni funding cuts will imperil health care

Local | 2 Dec 2019 1:16 pm

The president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors' Association, Arisina Ma, says the government's decision to withdraw a HK$254 million funding request for new university medical teaching facilities will leave Hong Kong with an even bigger shortage of hospital staff in the coming years.
Chinese University was expecting HK$59.7 million to build a teaching-research complex, while the University of Hong Kong was seeking HK$194.3 million to improve its medical campus.
But pro-government lawmakers reportedly asked the government to pull the funding request from Legco because they were unhappy with the way universities have handled recent protests on campuses.
Ma told RTHK that the pro-establishment camp should put the public's welfare before politics and make sure the universities get the funds they need to increase the number of medical students.
"If the two medical schools cannot have their new buildings, new facilities, and also cannot admit more medical students as scheduled previously, we won't have enough new doctors in order to fulfil the medical needs in the coming 10 to 20 years," Ma warned.
She added that with medical student numbers increasing since 2012, existing facilities at the two universities are already at full capacity, and there will be no space for the hundreds more students per year the government is hoping for.
The government has also withdrawn a HK$1.4 billion funding request for Polytechnic University since the protest clashes and police siege of the Hung Hom campus last month.
Ma said this move will also have a detrimental effect on Hong Kong's medical services in the future.
"Besides doctors, the need for health care personnel also includes nurses, all kinds of therapists and radiologists and so on, and that's why the funding for the Polytechnic University is also important," she said.
The DAB's Ann Chiang has denied the pro-Beijing campus is seeking to punish the universities over the involvement of students in anti-government protests, and says it only wants the administration to be prudent with its finances due to the economic downturn.
But Ma told RTHK's Janice Wong that these are not new plans and the government had announced years ago that it already had the money available for the expansion projects.
Ma added that the demand for medical services will not decline when the economy slows, and in fact, it will be quite the opposite.
"Actually, the need for our public sector medical service will increase during the economic downturn because less and less people will go to the private sector. So no matter what kind of expenditure you cut, you cannot cut the medical services, because this is the basic need of our citizens."

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