Hospital fee hike proposals at lower level than HA's

Local | Carain Yeung 20 Apr 2017

The government has to consider political factors in setting a lower hike for public hospital fees, said Hospital Authority chairman John Leong Chi-yan, pictured.

But Leong expects the government proposal for an 80 percent hike in accident and emergency fees - from HK$100 to HK$180 - can still divert non-urgent patients to other clinics although it is lower than the authority's proposed increase.

The authority earlier proposed a 120 percent hike for the A&E fee to rise to HK$220 to deter abuse of service as 65 percent of attendances are non-urgent cases.

"There is no such thing as cheap or expensive," Leong said yesterday. "We are only advising what we think is reasonable."

It is the Food and Health Bureau that makes the decision after taking in recommendations by the authority, Leong said, adding he did not know the rationale behind the government's proposal.

But Leong said he believes the government has taken various factors into account, including political reasons and whether the public can accept it.

An A&E charge was introduced in 2002 and has never been adjusted.

Leong said the HK$100 represents a 82 percent subsidy from the government and the subsidy level will reach 85 percent after the first adjustment in 15 years. This means that government still has to pay more than when the fee was initially designed.

He said it will take a year or two for the authority to see the impact of the hikes and it will keep an eye on the situation.

Meanwhile, Undersecretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said her bureau took in the views of different stakeholders before making the proposal.

Chan said she believes a significant drop in A&E attendances will not be seen immediately but the adjustment will send out a message to the public that they should consider private medical services if their conditions are not urgent.

The bureau yesterday submitted a paper to the Legislative Council proposing the new public hospitals charges.

All the proposed fees were at a lower level than what the authority suggested, with the bureau saying it believes its proposal can strike a balance between "encouraging appropriate use" of public health services and addressing public concern of high financial burden. Legco's health services panel will discuss the proposal on Tuesday.

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