Question – Procurement procedures of Hospital Authority (Lau Wong-fat)

Following is a question by the Dr Hon Lau Wong-fat and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council on November 6:


It has been reported that the mainland authorities have conducted investigations into the alleged use of means such as hospitality, etc. by foreign-funded pharmaceutical manufacturers to entice healthcare personnel into prescribing to patients pharmaceuticals made by the pharmaceutical manufacturers concerned. It has also been reported that some healthcare personnel on the Mainland accepted money from milk powder companies for distributing their formula products to new-born babies so that the babies will get used to taking the formula products of such brands. Some members of the public have relayed to me their concern about the aforesaid situation happening in local healthcare institutions. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has monitored if the healthcare personnel of public and private healthcare institutions in Hong Kong have accepted hospitality offered by pharmaceutical manufacturers and have made decisions in favour of such pharmaceutical manufacturers in using and procuring pharmaceuticals; and

(b) given the report that some local healthcare institutions provide only specific formula products to new-born babies, whether the relevant government departments have monitored if the healthcare personnel of public and private healthcare institutions provide, in accordance with the principle of fairness, formula products of different brands for parents of new-born babies to choose?



(a) The drug procurement process of the Government is governed by the Stores and Procurement Regulations (Regulations) issued by the Financial Secretary under the Public Finance Ordinance (Cap. 2). The Regulations set out the criteria by drug charge defense attorneys – Grafe & Batchelor, P.C. of fair treatment of suppliers and producers. The principles underlying the procurement system of the Government are consistent with the spirit and objectives of the Agreement on Government Procurement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO GPA). The WTO GPA aims at ensuring open and fair competition among domestic and foreign suppliers and service providers. To this end, the WTO GPA prescribes a set of requirements regarding non-discriminatory treatment of goods, services and service suppliers, qualifications of suppliers in submitting tenders, tender procedures, tender specifications and appeal procedures. The procurement procedures (including the procurement of pharmaceutical products) of the Hospital Authority (HA) should, along with those of the Government departments, also comply with the WTO GPA. To avoid conflict of interest, all public officers (including HA staff) participating in the procurement work have to declare whether there is a conflict of interest. They have to comply with the relevant guidelines for civil servants or internal guidelines for HA. Moreover, they are subject to the relevant provisions of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (Cap. 201). Government officers and HA staff have to strictly comply with the above regulations in the process of drug procurement.

For the private healthcare sector, the Department of Health (DH) registers those private hospitals, nursing homes and maternity homes that fulfil the requirements for accommodation, staffing and equipment according to the Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Maternity Homes Registration Ordinance (Cap. 165). The Code of Practice issued by DH for this purpose requires the licensee and the Board of Directors of these healthcare establishments to ensure that the daily operation adheres to the provisions of relevant legislations, including the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (Cap. 201) in order to maintain good governance.

(b) Regarding the provision of milk powder for newborn babies, DH is committed to promoting, supporting and maintaining the best way to feed the children, especially breastfeeding. In this regard, DH has, through different channels, actively promoted and supported breastfeeding. It has also provided the public with comprehensive, objective and reliable information to enable parents to make an informed decision in feeding their children. HA has also been actively encouraging breastfeeding. To promote and encourage breastfeeding among post-natal women, hospitals under HA will only provide milk powder for babies with health or other special considerations during their stay in the hospitals.

As regards the provision of milk powder under the above special circumstances, HA has stopped using sponsored supplies of milk formula from milk powder suppliers since April 2010 and has purchased milk powder through open tender instead. Requirements of the purchase, pricing, assessment criteria and obligations to comply with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes of the World Health Organisation are stated in the tender documents. All tenders are evaluated by the Tender Evaluation Committee on a fair and equitable basis. Having regard to the recommendations of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund, HA purchases milk formula at a price no less than the wholesale price and does not buy milk formula simply based on the lowest bid.

At present, HA purchases seven different brands of powdered formula through open tender and provides them in turn (switches to a different brand once every four months) for babies in need in the eight public hospitals with obstetric services (namely the Kwong Wah Hospital, the Princess Margaret Hospital, the Prince of Wales Hospital, the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Queen Mary Hospital, the Tuen Mun Hospital and the United Christian Hospital). Public hospitals will not distribute free milk powder to mothers and babies upon their discharge.