Confronted with an ageing population, shortages of healthcare manpower and various challenges posed by the pandemic of the century, there has been a sustained increase in demand for healthcare services in the society. Tung Wah College (TWC) has always been actively responding to the needs of the community by nurturing nursing and allied health professionals to relieve the pressure on the public healthcare system. Following the professional accreditation of the three Bachelor’s Degrees in Medical Laboratory Science, Radiation Therapy and Occupational Therapy, TWC’s Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Physiotherapy Programme (“the Programme”) is once again given professional accreditation by the Supplementary Medical Professions Council, making it the first self-financing bachelor of science in physiotherapy programme to receive professional recognition. This year’s graduates can apply for registration as physiotherapists and practise in Hong Kong.
TWC has offered the Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Physiotherapy since the 2018/2019 academic year and is the first self-financing tertiary institution in Hong Kong offering a degree programme in physiotherapy. The Programme has been included in the Education Bureau’s Study Subsidy Scheme for Designated Professions/Sectors since the 2019/2020 academic year, and new students entering the Programme in the 2022/2023 academic year may receive an annual tuition fee subsidy of nearly HK$80,000. The first cohort of 49 graduates (2021/2022) are recognised by local professional bodies and can register directly as physiotherapists to work in public or private hospitals, non-profit rehabilitation and social welfare organisations, etc. All the graduates have received offers, in which 80% will work for Hospital Authority while the remaining 20% to work in non-governmental organisations, private clinics and hospitals.
The “Celebration Reception on Professional Accreditation of Physiotherapy Programme” was held on 12 July with officiating guests including Mr. Philip Tsai Wing-chung, BBS, JP, Chairman of the Supplementary Medical Professions Council; Mr. Philip Ma Ching-yeung, Chairman of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (TWGHs) Board of Directors 2022/2023 cum Chairman of Board of Governors of TWC; Mrs. Viola Chan Man Yee-wai, BBS, Chairman of College Council of TWC; and Professor Sally Chan, President of TWC. They all officiated at the ceremony to congratulate TWC on advancing its development to the next level, providing high-quality tertiary programmes constantly to nurture medical professionals for the society. Professor Lo Chung-mau, BBS, JP, Secretary for Health, also gave a congratulatory video message to TWC.
In the video, Professor Lo Chung-mau, BBS, JP, Secretary for Health, thanked TWC for nurturing many specialised medical professionals in Hong Kong, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, medical laboratory technologists and radiographers. He pointed out, “According to the latest release of medical manpower projections, Hong Kong is expected to have a shortfall of 276 or 487 physiotherapists in 2030 and 2040 respectively. In view of the strong demand for physiotherapists in the community, the Government is very pleased that TWC is providing training for physiotherapists, offering wider and more diversified learning opportunities under the corresponding funded sector of the University Grants Committee.”
Mr. Philip Tsai Wing-chung, BBS, JP, Chairman of the Supplementary Medical Professions Council, said, “The successful accreditation of the four allied health programmes of TWC from the Council at different times has demonstrated that the quality of TWC’s programmes and the academic standards of its students are professionally recognised, which will give a fresh impetus to the relevant allied health industry and alleviate the long-standing manpower shortages in the industry.”
Mr. Philip Ma Ching-yeung, Chairman of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (TWGHs) Board of Directors 2022/2023 cum Chairman of Board of Governors of TWC, said, “Leveraging on the expertise, network and strengths in healthcare of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, TWC offers a number of professionally accredited degree and sub-degree programmes to nurture new blood coming into the industry.” Chairman Ma hopes that TWC will continue to fulfil the mission of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals to promote education and nurture talents who care for the community, as well as developing varied and quality programmes to nurture more professionals in medical, healthcare and other different specialised fields.
Mrs. Viola Chan Man Yee-wai, BBS, Chairman of College Council of TWC, said, “Since the establishment of TWC, we have set a clear positioning to focus on the training of students by developing high-quality application and practice-based specialised medical programmes, helping them embark on their career and excel themselves. At the same time, we are meeting the community's demand for medical professionals, fulfiling our social responsibility. The provision of physiotherapy programme is exactly an integral part in achieving this mission.”
Professor Sally Chan, President of TWC expressed that TWC's professional healthcare programmes have helped to alleviate the problem of medical staff shortages, which has become more acute over the past two years due to the pandemic, coupled with the increasing demand for medical and healthcare services in the society. She pointed out, “The application process for professional accreditation of the Programme was full of challenges, requiring extensive vetting, during which prompt adjustments were made following the professional comments from the assessment committee and their approval was won finally. Thanks to the dedication of a professional, knowledgeable and clinically-experienced teaching team, including Professor Matthew Yau Kwai-sang, Dean of School of Medicine and Health Sciences; Professor Grace Szeto Pui-yuk, Programme Leader of Physiotherapy, staff from Quality Assurance Office and other administrative units, as well as students who are passionate about the physiotherapy profession. Without their contribution, it is impossible to receive the accreditation from the Supplementary Medical Professions Council.”
Professor Grace Szeto Pui-yuk, Programme Leader of Physiotherapy, TWC said frankly, “As the first self-financing tertiary institution offering a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy, we had faced many challenges at the outset. Programme assessment has to be conducted annually over the four-year study period to determine that it meets the standards before it can be accredited. It is also necessary to communicate with the industry and the public from time to time in order to build their confidence in the successful accreditation of the Programme.” Professor Szeto emphasised, “The Programme focuses on training students to become caring medical professionals, providing them with loads of practice opportunities in primary care and community rehabilitation. Through 1,085 hours of clinical placements in four years, each graduate is equipped with professional skills to provide appropriate treatment in accordance with the needs of different target groups in a variety of settings.”
Luka Chow, a fresh graduate of the Programme, had worked in the accounting field for a few years after obtaining a degree in accounting prior to his study of the Bachelor’s Degree in Physiotherapy at TWC. “After working with numbers for a few years, I began to reflect on the value of my work and hoped to take up a job to help people improve their way of living”. As such, he was utterly resolute in changing his career track and became a student of the first intake of the Programme. He believes that his four-year study has fully equipped him to become a professional physiotherapist, giving him the confidence to restart in his new job.
When serving his internship, Luka had an unforgettable memory of designing a treatment plan for an 80-year-old woman who was admitted to hospital for stroke. He shared his story and said, “At first, she was merely confined to her bed, and the sudden loss of her mobility made her feel very disturbing. The stroke also affected her cognitive and communication skills. I patiently calmed her down and encouraged her to persevere in her rehabilitation. After three to four weeks, she was able to walk slowly with her walking frame. When she left, she told me that I was her “half-son”, which touched me so much. This experience has taught me that to be a professional physiotherapist, apart from having knowledge and skills, it is more important to have a passion for the job and a caring heart for patients.” Luka is now employed as a Physiotherapist II and is able to practise what he has learnt after graduating, moving forward to the next milestone of his life.
Rexanna Chan, a Year 2 student of the BSc (Hons) in Physiotherapy, has become a volunteer and worked with her father, who is a physiotherapist, since she was a child, providing long-term physiotherapy services to grass-roots families and ethnic minorities in Sham Shui Po. Being influenced by her father, she aspired to join the public medical services team to serve the disadvantaged; and therefore she selected physiotherapy at TWC as her first three priorities in JUPAS.
She said, “The professional accreditation of the Programme will help train more physiotherapists in the community and offer the chance to more young people to serve the society. Although I am still two years away from graduation, I have already been planning to pursue a career in rehabilitation, especially in cancer rehabilitation such as helping breast cancer patients to treat oedema through massage therapy to relieve their discomfort of cancer treatment, or even to play an important role in aspects of disease prevention and health promotion.”