PLC Paper No. CB(2) 273
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and cleared
with the Chairman)
Ref : CB2/PL/PS/1

LegCo Panel on Public Service

Minutes of meeting held on Monday, 24 March 1997 at 10:30 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

    Hon IP Kwok-him(Chairman)
    Hon LEE Kai-ming (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP

Members absent :

    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon Allen LEE Peng-fei, CBE, JP
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    > Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung

Public Officers attending :

For All Items
Ms Sandra LEE
Secretary for the Civil Service (Acting)

For Item II
Deputy Secretary (Civil Service)2
Mrs Philomena LEUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary (Civil Service)

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Sharon TONG
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)1

Staff in attendance :

Mr Paul WOO
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)5

I. Date of next meeting and items for discussion

The next meeting would be held on Monday, 28 April 1997 at 10:30 am to discuss the following items :

  1. Chinese language requirement in the civil service and public-funded organizations; and

  2. Mechanism for accreditation of academic qualifications from overseas.

2. As to item (a) above, the Chairman advised that relevant staff associations of the civil service should be invited to make submissions on the subject and to present their views at the next Panel meeting.

3. Members agreed that the subjects of update on localization of the Police Force and follow-up on appeal channel in the civil service after the handover should be discussed at the Panel meeting in May 1997.

4. Members also agreed to remove the subject of transition of the civil service as a standing item for discussion since developments over the past few months had resulted in resolving most of the major issues surrounding the transition of the civil service, and there appeared to be no particularly serious problems as to the smooth transition of the civil service in relation to the handover of sovereignty. Members resolved that any specific issues of interest could be raised for discussion as separate agenda items where necessary.

II. Overseas medical treatment for civil servants

(LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1274/96-97(01))

5. Deputy Secretary (Civil Service)2 (DS(CS)2) elaborated on the arrangements for the reimbursement of overseas medical expenses and the criteria for reimbursement as set out in LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 1274/96-97(01).

6. Some members expressed the view that as far as medical treatment was concerned, there were always other forms of better treatment available elsewhere. Members were concerned about the mechanism in place to prevent abuse of the system. DS(CS)2 responded that the yardsticks for reimbursement were in fact very strict. Under existing policy whose major provisions were promulgated in the mid 1970s, serving civil servants and their dependants could only seek medical treatment abroad and be reimbursed for the necessary costs involved, provided that the treatment was essential and could not be provided in Hong Kong and that prior approval for the treatment overseas had been obtained from the Director of Health. The Director of Health, in exercising her discretion to approve, would take into consideration the independent opinion and recommendations of two doctors, one being the attending doctor of the patient, of the Hospital Authority. The costs of follow-up treatment which was available in Hong Kong would not be reimbursed. During the three years up to May 1996, reimbursements were made only in respect of four applications.

7. Mrs Elizabeth WONG said that provisions with regard to this civil service benefit ought to be reviewed at this point in time when Hong Kong was already leading in the medical field in many aspects, for example in terms of technology, quality of and costs for medical treatment. DS(CS)2 responded that the reality was that no single place, including Hong Kong, was likely to have all the medical techniques and technology in place to provide the necessary treatment for all patients who needed that particular treatment. The criteria adopted by the Government were a last resort approach. He said that the four cases referred to previously were very rare cases. The officers concerned were then facing a life-threatening situation where at that particular point in time there were no other ways but to go abroad for the essential treatment. DS(CS)2 assured members that the doctors of the Hospital Authority would certainly look at the availability of alternatives in respect of treatments in Hong Kong when they made any recommendations.

8. In respect of the four approved cases, Mr Michael HO Mun-ka enquired if further details on the medical conditions of the officers concerned could be released. The Administration agreed to provide additional information after the meeting, subject to the provisions of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. In reply to the Chairman’s question, DS(CS)2 said that one of the four officers was on Point 14 (the entry point) of the Police Pay Scale while another officer was on about the same salary level on the Master Pay Scale. The other two officers were directorate officers.

9. Referring to other questions by members, DS(CS)2 pointed out that benefits provided under the Scheme were applicable to civil servants across the board. He undertook to revert to members on whether employees in subvented organizations and members of the ordinary public had access to overseas medical treatment. He advised that over the same three-year period, the Administration had rejected three applications for reimbursement of overseas medical expenses for failure to conform to the set criteria. In one of the three rejected cases, the officer concerned took out treatment overseas without seeking prior approval from the Government. The other two cases involved medical treatments which were otherwise available in Hong Kong. DS(CS)2 remarked that there was no misuse or abuse of the benefit.


10. DS(CS)2 further advised that civil servants receiving medical treatment overseas while on duty or on leave would be treated separately under different provisions of the Civil Service Regulations.


III. Transition of the civil service

11. Secretary for the Civil Service (SCS(Ag)) informed members that so far 34 civil servants, including the Secretary for Home Affairs, had been seconded to the Chief Executive (Designate)’s Office. One additional secondment was being contemplated. SCS(Ag) pointed to a stable civil service, as evidenced by the fact that the current overall wastage rate (4.3%) was the lowest in eight years. The wastage rate for directorate officers also recorded a low figure at 9%. She added that there would be normal retirements both before and after 30 June 1997. SCS(Ag) undertook to provide updated information on the number of directorate officers who were not Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service Officers who would proceed on pre-retirement leave in the next three months.


12. With regard to the regulations on the appointment, removal and discipline of civil servants after 1997, SCS(Ag) advised that the Government’s proposals relating to replacing the existing authorities under the Colonial Regulations with executive orders made by the Chief Executive and the appeal mechanism for civil servants etc. had been put forward and discussed at the Senior Civil Service Council’s meeting last week. SCS agreed to revert to members on further progress.


IV. Close of meeting

13. The meeting ended at 11:55 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
24 July 1997

Last Updated on 21 August 1998