In the Hospital
I have just been diagnosed with cancer by a private doctor. If I want to receive treatment from public hospitals, what can I do?
You should first discuss with your private doctor and ask them for a referral letter, stating department in the public hospital you should be transferred to. You can then make an appointment with the out-patient division in the oncology department at the specified hospital with this letter. Remember that oncology departments at public hospitals in Hong Kong only accept referrals by registered doctors. Walk-ins are not accepted.
How long do I have to wait for treatment appointments at the public hospital if I am referred by a private doctor?
Public hospitals will arrange out-patient appointments according to the urgency of cases, with cancer patients enjoying a higher priority. However, a 2-4 week waiting time is common.
If I want to transfer from one public hospital to another, what can I do?
Currently, all public hospitals in Hong Kong are arranged according to the clustering system, divided into 5 areas. Hospitals within the same area will form an individual network to provide medical care to the public. Cancer patients will be assigned to oncology departments in the hospitals within their residential area, and it is very unlikely that patients will be transferred to another hospital for treatment. Under special circumstances, for example, when the hospital's capacity is full, or when the patient requires special treatment or care not available in his/her assigned hospital, or if the patient requires special attention from specialists in another hospital, then a transfer will be arranged. Therefore, if you wish to be transferred to another hospital, talk with your attending doctor and with valid reasons, he/she may consider applying for a transfer on your behalf.
My father's situation is getting worse and my mother does not know how to take care of him properly. Can we apply for hospice care services in the public hospital?
Hospice care is offered to terminal cancer patients and families to support them physically and emotionally, with the aim of providing peace and comfort during patients' last days. Professional counselling services also serve to comfort families during a time of grief and pain. Patients and families can always discuss with their medical carers on the possibility of getting hospice care, and where necessary, they can also apply for the service on behalf of the patients and their families they are attending to. Alternatively, you may wish to consider applying for homecare support, a free service offered through Cancer Fund's CancerLink centre in Wong Tai Sin. For details, please call 3656-0800.
I heard that spaces for hospice care are really limited and there is a long waiting list. Is this true?
There are over 200 spaces for hospice care in 10 hospitals throughout Hong Kong. Each hospital has their own waiting list and therefore if patients want to apply for the service, they should discuss with their doctors first and apply promptly.
My mother is receiving treatment from the public hospital and as her family, we would like to know her progress. What should I do?
If you would like to know the progress of a family member, you can contact the patient supervisor in the hospital and they will arrange a meeting with the medical officers. If the patient is already staying in the hospital, you can also learn about his/her progress from the ward supervisor.
I am very disappointed with the attitude of my doctor, where can I lodge a complaint?
If you are dissatisfied with your doctor, you can inform the patient supervisor and they will follow up on your case. If you are still dissatisfied with the reply from the hospital, you can complain directly to the Complaint Hotline of the Hospital Authority at 2300-7125.
My wife is from mainland China and she is diagnosed with cancer. Can I bring her to Hong Kong for treatment?
As with all Hong Kong residents, cancer patients from China must be referred by a registered doctor before they can receive treatment from public hospitals. However, since April 1, 2003, public hospitals in Hong Kong have revised their treatment fees. All non-qualified patients (including those from China without a valid Hong Kong ID) will not receive subsidies and have to pay full medical fees. Please refer to the Hospital Authority for details on the charges. A number of private hospitals in Hong Kong are also offering treatment to people from the Chinese mainland and you can check with these hospitals for further information.
I have just completed my cancer treatment and I am planning to use Chinese medicine to help with my recovery. However, I do not know how to differentiate between a registered and non-registered traditional Chinese doctor?
All registered traditional Chinese doctors are governed by the "Chinese Medicine Ordinance" and all practicing Chinese doctors must be registered. You can check on the qualifications of your Chinese doctor through the website www.cmchk.org.hk. Anyone who practices without registering with the government is considered illegal, and patients should take extra caution when selecting practitioners.
Should I ask for a second opinion? What if my doctor doesn't want me to do that?
A lot of patients opt for a second opinion before deciding on treatment options. In fact, doctors these days readily accept that many people seek a second opinion to help reaffirm their decisions and receive peace of mind. However, as a patient, you should first ask yourself whether you are trying to obtain a better picture of your situation, or whether you are trying to deny the diagnosis that you have cancer. Be mindful that seeking numerous opinions could result in delayed treatment – so discuss openly with your doctor why you think a second or third opinion is necessary to avoid any misunderstandings.
What kind of preparation is required before meeting the doctor?
First of all, you should bring a friend or family member on your first visit. In case you are confused and lost, your friend can help you write down recommendations from the doctor which you may forget. They can also help raise questions to the doctor. You should also make a note of your discomfort, for instance, when and where do you feel pain and the frequency. This can greatly help with the doctor's diagnosis. You can also write down your questions beforehand. Make sure that you arrive at the office on time and bring along all current medications, consultation card, test reports, etc. For additional guidance, you can refer to the section “What to Ask Your Doctor?” within each of our cancer information booklets. Or, you can make an appointment with our nurse specialist at CancerLink Central to receive guidance on what to ask your doctor. Please call 3667 3000 to make an appointment.
I want to try Chinese medical therapy. Is this available in Hong Kong's hospitals?
Until now, Hong Kong's public hospitals do not provide mixed therapies to patients. Medical treatment in public hospitals is based on scientifically-proven modern western medicine. However, the three universities (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University and Baptist University) which offer Chinese therapy courses do have clinics that offer Chinese medical therapies. The Hospital Authority and the universities also work together with charities to set up three Chinese medical clinics for out-patient consultations. In March 2009, an acupuncture centre was opened within the Prince of Wales Hospital's oncology unit to benefit cancer patients. Please call the Cancer Patient Resource Centre at Prince of Wales Hospital on 2632 4030 for more information.