Complaint handling mechanism of Hospital Authority

30/11/2016

 

Following is a question by the Professor Hon Joseph Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (November 30):
 
Question:
 
     There are views that the mechanism of the Hospital Authority (HA) for handling complaints lodged by members of the public about the medical services of and the medical incidents in public hospitals and HA's criteria for determining the punishments to be imposed on the healthcare personnel proved to have made mistakes lack transparency.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council if it knows:
 
(1) the number of complaints, received by each public hospital in each of the past three years, about its medical services and medical incidents, and the respective average and longest time taken to handle such complaints;

(2) whether HA has currently classified or graded the complaints according to their severity; if HA has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether HA has currently provided legal assistance for the healthcare personnel under complaint; if HA has, of the details; whether HA has assessed the adequacy of the assistance provided to its healthcare personnel; if HA has not assessed, of the reasons for that; and

(4) the criteria adopted by HA for determining the punishments to be imposed on the healthcare personnel proved to have made mistakes; whether the various public hospitals, upon completion of the handling of the complaints, will inform the complainants of the punishments to be imposed on the healthcare personnel proved to have made mistakes and the improvement measures to be implemented by the hospitals in the light of the outcome of the complaints; whether HA will conduct a review on ways to ensure that (i) such criteria and (ii) its complaint handling mechanism are fair?

Reply:

President,

     My reply to the questions raised by the Professor Hon Joseph Lee on the complaint handling mechanism of the Hospital Authority (HA) is as follows:

(1) and (2) The HA has a two-tier system in place to handle complaints from patients and the public.  The first tier is at the hospital level which handles all complaints lodged for the first time.  If complainants are not satisfied with the outcome of the complaints, they may appeal to the second tier, that is the Public Complaints Committee (PCC) of the HA.  Established under the HA Board, the PCC will independently consider and decide on all appeal cases, and put forward recommendations to the HA for service improvement.  None of the members of the PCC are employees of the HA.  By virtue of their independent status, the PCC will handle all complaints fairly and impartially.

     Upon receipt of the complaints, the hospital concerned and the PCC will carry out in-depth investigations as soon as possible. In the course of complaint handling, if there are areas for improvement identified in the service delivery or healthcare system, the HA will take appropriate follow-up actions to ensure service quality.

     The HA classifies complaints into five categories by nature, namely medical services, staff attitude, administrative matters, overall performance and others.  The following table sets out the number of complaints related to medical services received by the respective hospital clusters over the past three years:
 

  Hong Kong East
Cluster
Hong Kong West Cluster Kowloon Central Cluster Kowloon East Cluster Kowloon West Cluster New Territories East
Cluster
New Territories West
Cluster
Total
2013-14 60 74 166 278 554 173 214 1,519
2014-15 36 112 200 248 486 183 146 1,411
2015-16 49 102 239 247 483 281 160 1,561

     The HA does not maintain statistics on the average or longest time taken by hospitals in responding to patients' complaints, nor does it have statistics of complaints about medical incidents, or classification of complaint cases by their severity.

(3) The HA endeavours to provide the necessary support for its staff.  Lawyers are appointed by HA to handle civil claims against medical incidents involving the HA and its staff.  Psychological counselling and crisis intervention services are provided through Oasis, the Centre for Personal Growth and Crisis Intervention of the HA.
 
(4) The HA has put in place an established mechanism to handle disciplinary matters of its staff. HA will take appropriate disciplinary actions, for example verbal warning, written warning, stoppage of increment, deferment of increment and dismissal, having regard to the circumstances of individual complaints.  Relevant disciplinary procedures are laid down in the Human Resources Policies Manual of the HA to enable clusters to adopt a fair and consistent approach in handling disciplinary matters.

     One of the main objectives of the HA's complaint mechanism is to, during the course of complaint handling, help resolve problems for the complainants and improve service delivery.  Upon receipt of complaints, the HA will handle the cases fairly and impartially in accordance with its well-established two-tier complaint handling system.  The HA and all hospitals have to handle disciplinary matters according to the prevailing human resources policies.  To respect and protect the privacy of its staff, the HA will not disclose to the complainant the disciplinary action taken against the staff concerned.  Upon completion of the case, the hospital will inform the complainant of the outcome and corresponding follow-up actions or improvement measures to be taken as appropriate.

 
Last Updated 2016-12-14