Non-emergency ambulance transfer service

20/04/2016

 

Following is a question by the Professor the Hon Joseph Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (April 20):

Question:

     The non-emergency ambulance transfer service (NEATS) of the Hospital Authority (HA) mainly provides point-to-point transport service for geriatric day hospital patients, discharged patients and specialist out-patient clinic patients in need of such service.  In reply to my question on June 30, 2010, the authorities indicated that HA would keep NEATS under review having regard to the service demand.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council if it knows:

(1) whether the utilisation rate of the aforesaid service has increased since 2010, and set out, by year and hospital cluster, the average daily person-times using the service and the average waiting time, since 2010;

(2)(i) the number of non-emergency ambulances, their average age and the number of those which had been in use for over 10 years, in each year since 2010, with a breakdown by hospital cluster, and (ii) whether HA has increased the number of non-emergency ambulances since 2010; if so, the number;

(3) the number of cases of and causes for non-emergency ambulances being late for picking up patients, and the number of relevant complaints received by HA, since 2010; if such information is unavailable, whether HA will consider keeping such records; and

(4) whether HA assessed in the past three years if NEATS was sufficient to meet the demand; if HA did and the outcome was in the negative, whether HA has planned to increase the number of non-emergency ambulances, replace those ambulances which have been in use for over 10 years and recruit additional manpower so as to enhance the efficiency of such service; if HA has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

     My reply to Professor the Hon Joseph Lee's question on the provision of non-emergency ambulance transfer service (NEATS) by the Hospital Authority (HA) is as follows:

(1) The NEATS is a point-to-point transfer service (i.e. between patients' residence and hospitals or specialist clinics) provided by HA primarily for mobility-handicapped patients who are unable to take public transport such as buses, taxis and Rehabus.  HA assesses the use of NEATS based on the overall number of transfers in all clusters in a year.  Annex 1 sets out the overall number of transfers provided through NEATS in each year from 2010-11.  The figures show a rising trend in the overall number of transfers provided through NEATS in the past six years.

Overall number of transfers provided through Hospital Authority’s non-emergency ambulance transfer service

Year 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16*
Number of transfers 394 486 407 748 472 635 501 203 526 279 545 000

* The figures of February and March 2016 are projections based on that of January 2016

     HA is committed to improving the waiting time for NEATS.  Since 2012-13, HA has reduced the waiting time of 75% of patients who are ready for discharge and have made bookings for NEATS from the standard of 90 minutes or less to 60 minutes or less.  Since 2013-14, HA has also reduced the waiting time of 85% of patients who are ready for inter-hospital transfer and have made bookings for NEATS from the standard of 90 minutes or less to 60 minutes or less.

(2) and (4) HA always endeavours to improve the provision of NEATS.  The number of NEATS vehicles has increased from 133 in 2010-11 to 198 in 2015-16.  Currently, the average age of the fleet is 5.8 years, and there are 17 vehicles which are over 10 years of age.  Among these vehicles with over 10 years of age, nine will be replaced in 2016-17 and the remaining eight will be gradually replaced afterwards.  Moreover, HA plans to introduce 14 additional NEATS vehicles in 2016-17, bringing the number of vehicles in the NEATS fleet to 212.

     Furthermore, in order to meet the increasing demand for the service, HA has increased the manpower for the provision of NEATS by 83% from 353 in 2009-10 to 647 in 2015-16.

     HA will keep the operation of NEATS under review having regard to the service demand.

(3) Annex 2 sets out the number of complaints received by HA on delay in NEATS since 2010.

Number of complaints received by Hospital Authority on delay in non-emergency ambulance transfer service

Year 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Number of complaints 4 3 2 2 4 4

     To optimise the use of resources, NEATS users are transferred in groups and patients making similar journeys will share the same vehicle as far as possible.  This may result in a longer journey time, and the service may be delayed occasionally due to traffic congestion.  Nonetheless, HA will continue to monitor and enhance the provision of NEATS to meet patients' needs.

 

 
Last Updated 2016-04-20