LegCo Panel on Health Services

Information Paper
Privately Purchased Medical Items for Public Patients


Patients receiving treatment at public hospitals are required to purchase at their expense certain medical items which are not stocked by the hospitals and are not included in the daily maintenance charge. Financially-needy patients can apply to the Samaritan Fund for assistance to pay for these items. A detailed account of this system of privately purchased medical items was provided in the paper discussed by this Panel on 8 January 1996.


2. As described below, Government and the Hospital Authority (HA) have recently taken a number of measures to rationalise the system of privately purchased medical items. These measures will benefit patients, especially those in financial need and with chronic illnesses.

Deletion of Certain Items

3. As undertaken by the Secretary for Health and Welfare at the LegCo meeting on 31 May 1995, several items required mainly by chronically ill patients have been removed from the list of privately purchased medical items with effect from 1 September 1995. They are joint replacements, orthopaedic implants and blood filters for thalassemia patients. The Secretary for Health and Welfare also undertook that no new items would be added to the list, pending a review of the whole system.

Relaxation of Assessment Criteria of Samaritan Fund

4. With effect from 1 December 1995, HA has relaxed the assessment criteria for the Samaritan Fund and simplified the application procedure. Since then, the number of grants from the Fund have increased by about four times.

Government Injection of $20 Million into the Samaritan Fund

5. Anticipating an increase in applications for assistance, Government injected $20 million into the Fund in early 1996. Private donations, which are the Fund's main source of income, are also being actively sought.

Greater Consistency and Transparency

6. On 25 November 1995, HA issued a circular to all public hospitals listing the remaining categories of privately purchased medical items and providing guidelines on how to process Fund applications. The purpose of this was to ensure consistent and transparent application of procedures across all hospitals.


7. To provide further relief for chronically-ill patients, HA has removed two more items from the list with effect from 1 July 1996. They are erythropoietin and artificial heart valves. About 1,300 patients suffering from heart and kidney diseases will benefit from this new initiative. The remaining categories of items which patients need to purchase on their own are shown in the Annex.


8. This practice of requiring patients to privately purchase certain medical items has been in place for a number of years before the establishment of HA. Government and HA are critically examining the practice in the context of the review of the healthcare system. Pending the outcome of the review, the present arrangements are being continued.

Health and Welfare Branch
July 1996



1. Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA) and other consumables for interventional cardiology

2. Cardiac pacemakers

3. Intraocular lens

4. Myoelectric prosthesis

5. Custom-made prosthesis

6. Implants for purely cosmetic surgery

7. Appliances for prosthetic and orthotic services, physiotherapy and occupational therapy services

8. Growth hormone and interferon

9. Home use equipment, appliances and consumables

Last Updated on 19 Aug, 1998