Few patients were transferred from public hospitals to private operations in the past three flu seasons, the ombudsman noted in questioning a Hospital Authority scheme.
The authority complained of shortages of hospital beds, especially in flu seasons when occupancy rates could exceed 120 percent and extra beds had to be put in corridors to cope.
Such a situation had led the authority to sign agreements with Saint Teresa's Hospital in Kowloon City and Hong Kong Adventist Hospital in Tsuen Wan to accept transfers of patients from public hospitals to HK$120-a-day beds.
Both private hospitals are required to provide no less than 20 percent of their beds at low charges under land grant deals.
But ombudsman Winnie Chiu Wai-yin found one of the hospitals accepted 25 to 35 patients during each flu peak in the past three years while the other accepted only two patients from public hospitals in total.
The authority had explained that only patients in stable conditions were allowed to be referred to another hospital, and doctors found most in-patients were not suitable.
So the ombudsman suggested the authority explore the relaxation of restrictions on referrals.
Investigators also heard that public hospitals did not have enough manpower to select suitable patients for transfers, and they had to cope with heavy paperwork for a referral.
On that, the watchdog called for a simplification of administrative procedures.
Chiu said the Hospital Authority and others accepted the suggestions. But there is no timeline for action.
She noted there are 164 low-charge beds in the two private hospitals. They could, however, handle between 12,000 and 24,000 patients each year under certain circumstances.