Private Healthcare Facilities Bill passed - licensing requirements to become compulsory
The Private Healthcare Facilities (“PHF”) Bill (“the Bill”) was passed by the Legislative Council on 15 November 2018 and it will be gazetted on 30 November 2018.
The Bill imposes a licensing obligation on four types of PHF:
- Private hospitals;
- Day procedure centres (ambulatory facilities providing high-risk medical procedures);
- Clinics (facilities providing medical services or minor medical procedures on patients without lodging); and
- Health services establishments (an education or scientific research institution in which medical services with lodging are provided for the purpose of conducting clinical trials).
There are exceptions for temporary premises for emergency or rescue purposes and facilities used for teaching or research purposes managed by a scheduled university.
The Bill allows small practice clinics operated, managed and served exclusively by no more than five registered medical practitioner(s) or registered dentist(s) to be exempted from obtaining a full licence. This exemption does not take effect automatically and a letter of exemption must be requested from the Director of Health.
The Secretary for Food and Health has confirmed that the registration for private hospitals under the Bill will commence in 2019 and the registration for day procedure centres and clinics is tentatively scheduled for 2020 and 2021 respectively. As part of the transitional arrangement, an operator of a day procedure centre or a clinic in operation on 30 November 2018 will be issued with a provisional licence upon application for a full licence, provided that certain conditions are met. The provisional licence allows the day procedure centre or clinic concerned to continue to operate before it qualifies for the full licence.
The Secretary for Food and Health has advised that all operators who commence a private healthcare facility after 30 November 2018 should comply with the new regulatory regime, and apply for a full licence in accordance with the arrangements set by the Department of Health. The Department of Health will organise briefings for stakeholders on the details of the regulatory regime in the coming months.
Meanwhile, we shall keep a close eye on updates from the Department of Health on the application procedures for licences of PHFs and letters of exemption for small practice clinics.