Published: 10:13, April 12, 2024
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GBA to launch cross-border ambulance service in midyear
By Fang Xue in Hong Kong
In this file photo dated Feb 28, 2022, paramedics carry a patient onto an ambulance in Hong Kong. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)

Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong province’s Shenzhen are set to launch a pilot cross-boundary ambulance service in midyear, providing seamless transportation for patients among the three cities. 

Currently, residents who need emergency medical treatment in Hong Kong are required to board a Hong Kong ambulance at border crossings when returning from Macao or the Chinese mainland.

In a meeting with reporters on Wednesday, Hong Kong Health Secretary Lo Chung-mau said that Hong Kong University-Shenzhen Hospital in Shenzhen and Conde S Januario Hospital in Macao will be the initial participants, with their respective patients allowed to transfer directly to Hong Kong hospitals.

The service is expected to handle dozens of cases in the first year. It will be expanded to include more hospitals and routes based on the experience and review of the pilot run, Lo said.

A paper outlining the proposals of the pilot program has been submitted to the Legislative Council Panel on Health Services, which will hold a panel discussion on it today.

Hong Kong Health Secretary Lo Chung-mau stressed the service will be provided only to patients who require immediate cross-border transfer for treatment or rehabilitation

According to the paper, mainland and Macao doctors who accompany the patients on the ambulance will be granted limited rights to practice in Hong Kong under a new notice to the city’s Medical Registration Ordinance. Once reaching the border of Hong Kong, they will be allowed to continue providing medical services for patients the whole way to the receiving hospital.

Lo stressed the service will be provided only to patients who require immediate cross-border transfer for treatment or rehabilitation. The authorities will also consider if they are suitable for other ways of transportation, and if their health conditions could be seriously affected by road transportation.

The transfer service will be available for non-Hong Kong patients as well, Lo said. The move not only aligns the interests of patients but also highlights Hong Kong’s status as an international hub for medical innovation, he added.

“Although we are facing some manpower shortages, on a case-by-case basis, we can leverage our healthcare strengths and capabilities … to improve the quality and safety of medical care for patients,” Lo said.

In an interview with China Daily, Mike Kwan Yat-wah, an honorary clinical associate professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said the program should ensure a smooth transfer of medical information — including laboratory test reports, x-ray images, CT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging results — for patients using the service.

Kwan also stressed the need to protect patient’s information privacy during the process. Kwan highlighted the need for a well-trained medical transport team during the long-distance travel.

Lao Hou-wai, a spokesperson for Macao’s Fire Services Bureau, said five of the bureau’s ambulances and a fire engine have been licensed to provide cross-border services to Hong Kong and the mainland.

Lao said the authorities of Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Macao are working on a collaboration framework agreement to enhance cross-boundary emergency response capabilities. Lao hopes the agreement will help the three places give full play to their abilities and effectively improve the effectiveness of cross-border medical services.