Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that a proposal to send non-critical medical patients in the Greater Bay Area to Hong Kong public hospitals would only be an added convenience measure for Hongkongers and would not apply to Chinese citizens.
Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said Hong Kong’s healthcare system would suffer under the new Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area proposal – a development plan for eleven cities in the region announced on Monday.
The plan encourages Hong Kong doctors to work in the mainland, and proposed that governments should study land-based cross-boundary transfer services for non-emergency and non-critically ill patients. The regional authorities will also explore rolling out a pilot cooperation scheme for the cross-boundary referral of patients between designated public hospitals.
“I heard you said you consulted and represent Hong Kong people. Have you ever approached any frontline medical staff from the North District Hospital and Tuen Mun Hospital? Have you approached any patients who waited for eight hours for emergency services?” Kwok asked Lam.
Lam said Hong Kong’s advantages included its international ties and reputation, until she was interrupted by Kwok who repeated his question.
Lam said that the movement of non-emergency and non-critically ill patients applied only to Hongkongers: “We already have such an arrangement now. When Hong Kong people who have non-emergency and non-critical conditions come back to Hong Kong for healthcare – I hope you will not repel them for coming back for healthcare – [Chinese] ambulances will transport them to the border, and [Hong Kong] ambulances will transport them to the hospital,” Lam said. “It is a measure only for convenience.”
Democratic Party Chair and lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said that Hong Kong was giving up its leading position inside the Greater Bay Area, adding that Hong Kong should not adopt a competitive attitude against other cities.
“It will diminish Hong Kong’s economy and assimilate it into the mainland,” he said.
Lam said in reply that Hong Kong must actively participate in the development of the Greater Bay Area.
“Our attitude should not be one of vicious competition. There are two kinds of competition. We are not saying that we should unilaterally cooperate with the mainland. We are talking about complementary development and win-win collaboration.”
Wu also questioned the proposed new one-off extradition plan with the mainland, whereby the chief executive may be forced to agree to extradition requests from the mainland.
Lam said, under the proposal, the chief executive would only be responsible for launching the process and she would not be involved in approving the extradition.