Manpower requirement for speech therapists

21/6/2017

 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 (June 21):

Question:

     Some speech therapists have relayed to me that with an ageing population, the demand for speech therapy service has increased continuously in recent years, but there is an acute manpower shortage of speech therapists in public hospitals.  They have pointed out that the Hospital Authority (HA) has not worked out a reasonable manpower establishment in the light of the service demand, thereby affecting the rehabilitation progress of patients.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether it knows:

(1) the following information regarding speech therapists in public hospitals in each of the past five years: (i) a breakdown of their number by rank, (ii) the contents of their service, (iii) the average service attendance per therapist, (iv) the average number of cases handled by each therapist, and (v) the average number of hours spent on each case;

(2) the manpower requirement of HA for speech therapists in the coming five years, and HA's plan to recruit additional speech therapists to meet the requirement; and

(3) the criteria based on which HA determines the manpower requirement for speech therapists, and whether HA will make reference to the practice of developed countries (e.g. Australia) and set a reasonable manpower target on the basis of service attendance and the type of diseases, with a view to providing quality service to patients; if HA will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

(1) Speech therapists of the Hospital Authority (HA) provide services for in-patients in hospitals and out-patients in the community.  Their major service targets include patients with communication problems, reading and writing difficulties, or swallowing disorders.  Services such as assessment, testing, treatment and counselling are provided for these patients, with a view to helping them prevent, reduce and overcome barriers to communication and swallowing, and enhancing their quality of life.

     The HA adopts an integrated approach in providing rehabilitation services through multi-disciplinary teams comprising doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. The adoption of multi-disciplinary approach allows flexibility in manpower deployment to meet service and operational needs.  The numbers of speech therapists (including permanent, contract and temporary staff in the HA) and attendances in each hospital cluster of the HA in the past five years are set out in the tables below:

 

2012-13 HKEC HKWC KCC KEC KWC NTEC NTWC
Number of Senior Speech Therapists 1 0 1 1 0 1 1
Number of Speech Therapists 9 11 9 9 11.5 12 10
Number of in-patient and day-patient attendances 22 182 16 068 23 124 12 988 22 549 21 884 28 769
Number of out-patient attendances 4 085 5 676 5 119 6 914 6 921 8 399 6 246
 
 
2013-14 HKEC HKWC KCC KEC KWC NTEC NTWC
Number of Senior Speech Therapists 1 0 1 1 0 1 1
Number of Speech Therapists 10 11.5 9 10.25 13 11 12
Number of in-patient and day-patient attendances 24 157 18 958 23 450 15 310 26 666 23 613 30 016
Number of out-patient attendances 4 412 5 987 4 330 7 635 8 136 7 949 6 865
 
2014-15 HKEC HKWC KCC KEC KWC NTEC NTWC
Number of Senior Speech Therapists 1 1 1 1 0 1 1
Number of Speech Therapists 10 12 10.5 10.25 17 12 13
Number of in-patient and day-patient attendances 26 602 19 866 24 066 16 918 30 660 24 900 33 138
Number of out-patient attendances 4 923 6 169 5 464 7 778 10 139 7 788 6 862
 
2015-16 HKEC HKWC KCC KEC KWC NTEC NTWC
Number of Senior Speech Therapists 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Number of Speech Therapists 12.5 13 12.5 11.25 18 15.2 15.5
Number of in-patient and day-patient attendances 28 466 22 461 23 911 18 847 37 235 29 525 36 389
Number of out-patient attendances 5 156 6 654 5 526 8 733 11 964 8 983 7 904
 
2016-17 HKEC HKWC KCC KEC KWC NTEC NTWC
Number of Senior Speech Therapists 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Number of Speech Therapists 13 14.5 12.5 11.4 18 17 17
Number of in-patient and day-patient attendances
(provisional figures)
32 324 23 709 28 978 20 522 39 495 32 894 41 537
Number of out-patient attendances
(provisional figures)
5 960 6 836 5 625 8 973 11 222 9 944 9 744
HKEC = Hong Kong East Cluster
HKWC = Hong Kong West Cluster
KCC = Kowloon Central Cluster
KEC = Kowloon East Cluster
KWC = Kowloon West Cluster
NTEC = New Territories East Cluster
NTWC = New Territories West Cluster

Note:

(1)  The HA allocates and provides its services on the basis of hospital clusters.  Resources within a cluster are flexibly deployed to meet service and operational needs.  The statistics are thus reported on a cluster basis.

(2)  Wong Tai Sin and Mong Kok have been re-delineated from KWC to KCC since December 1, 2016.  The service units in the concerned communities have therefore been re-delineated from KWC to KCC to support the new KCC catchment districts with effect from the same date.  As a transitional arrangement, reports on services/manpower statistics and financial information continued to be based on the previous clustering arrangement (i.e. concerned service units still under KWC) until March 31, 2017.  Reports in accordance with the new clustering arrangement (i.e. concerned service units grouped under KCC) started from April 1, 2017.

     The HA does not maintain statistical record on the number of cases handled and the service attendances per speech therapist.  As the clinical condition of each patient varies, the time needed for handling each case depends on various factors such as the type and complexity of the case, and the mode of treatment.

(2) and (3) On service and manpower planning, the HA will formulate a comprehensive estimation on the medium to long-term service needs based on the population projections released by the Government.  The HA conducts annual manpower deployment and planning with regard to service needs, estimated staff turnover and its financial position, and provides relevant training programmes to serving staff to meet the service and operational needs.  As the speech therapy services, mode of treatment and types of cases, etc. of other countries are different from those of Hong Kong, the criteria adopted by other countries for determining manpower requirements may not be applicable to Hong Kong