Part II: The Fixed Period ends in Shenzhen: Aging in the Greater Bay Area

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Mr Lam Ching-choi, chairman of the Elderly Commission, suggests setting up a special zone for healthcare in the GBA, as there is not enough manpower and land for elderly care in Hong Kong.

The zone would adopt the Hong Kong-style healthcare system and practices and have access to medication available in Hong Kong.

Challenges ahead

But there are technical concerns regarding medication, travelling distance, manpower and handling of complaints when it comes to providing healthcare across the border.

“When there are medical incidents involving Hong Kong doctors in the mainland, can patients file a complaint in Hong Kong if they do not trust how the mainland handles complaints?” Mr Lam says, suggesting a mechanism that allows complaints to be handled in Hong Kong.

“There are drugs that are available in Hong Kong but not yet registered in China,” he added, calling for measures to allow medical institutions to prescribe drugs that are only available in Hong Kong.

Manpower is another concern, as former head of the Food and Health Bureau Dr Ko Wing-man says. He would not encourage the Hong Kong healthcare professionals to relocate to China, as the city already lacks manpower in the industry.

But Mr Cheung from CP Homes says there are solutions.

“The Hong Kong doctors can bring these drugs to Huizhou to our clients, and our clients also go back to Hong Kong from time to time for check-ups and get the medicine they need,” he says.

He also acknowledges that CP Homes’ doctors and nurses are from the mainland, but stresses that they receive training from Hong Kong doctors.

“Telemedicine can also play a role in cross-border elderly care, having Hong Kong doctors to provide healthcare from a distance,” he says, believing this will be the trend.

Ideal but more details needed

Mr Chan Wai-keung, lecturer of the Division of Humanities, Design and Social Sciences at PolyU, says it is not clear what kind of elderly people the “special zone” will cater to.

“Those at grassroots might need to give up their government subsidies if they no longer live in Hong Kong. The middle-class people might also not find the GBA appealing,” he explains.

He also says medical insurance purchased in Hong Kong might not cover treatment received in China, so the elderly will still need to come back to Hong Kong to get treated.

Mr Chan also mentions the reluctance for the elderly to relocate due to family ties and unfamiliar culture.

Before the zone

Currently, there are already three measures to help Hong Kong’s elderly to retire and seek healthcare service in China, despite their rather small scale.

The Social Welfare Department has rolled out two schemes – the Pilot Residential Care Services Scheme in Guangdong and the Portable Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme.

The first one allows the elderly who are waiting to be admitted to subsidized care homes in Hong Kong to live in two homes that are operated by Hong Kong non-governmental organisations in Shenzhen and Zhaoqing.

The second scheme allows the elderly who are on government subsidies can continue to receive them even if they choose to retire permanently in Guangdong or Fujian.

The third measure is the Elderly Health Care Voucher Scheme by the Food and Health Bureau.

Those aged 65 or above can receive vouchers worth of $2,000 per year for private healthcare service in Hong Kong, and at The University of Hong Kong – Shenzhen Hospital in Shenzhen.

Ms Sophia Chan, current head of bureau, said the authorities are considering extending the voucher scheme to more hospitals in China.

Mr Lam from the Elderly Commission also suggests extending the scheme to medical institutions operated by Hong Kongers in China.

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