Fees policy 'unjustified'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 May, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 May, 1999, 12:00am

A private hospital chief believes the decades-old policy of charging richer patients far more should be changed, saying he can find no justification for it.

The South China Morning Post revealed insurance industry figures last week that showed charges can vary tenfold depending on the grade of room selected, with the cost even of the same amount of medication varying widely.

Secrecy about fees and charges at private hospitals has also been questioned, with patients who call up private hospitals not always told how much each item costs.

Dr Patrick Wong Pak-kwun, the deputy medical superintendent of Baptist Hospital in Kowloon Tong, admitted that most of the 12 private hospitals adopted differential charging policies.

He said he would raise the issue at the next meeting of the private hospital group, which includes all the institutions.

'It is a tradition, it has been here for many years,' he said. 'But what is the reason behind it? I really can't say, there is not any good reason for this.

'I think it needs a review, but it could not be done by only one private hospital.' The private hospital group normally holds meeting every quarter.

Baptist Hospital's bed charges range from $330 for a ward shared by eight to 10 patients to $2,500 for a luxury private room with television, sitting room and private bathroom.

Compared to the standard rate for the lowest-rate room, prices for miscellaneous items are double for a private room, 50 per cent more for a room for two, and 25 per cent extra for a room for four.

Dr Wong said private hospitals had been charging well-off patients more to 'subsidise' those who could not afford the prices.

To make charging more transparent, Dr Wong said Baptist Hospital would for the first time compile a list of charges and put it in wards for patients' reference.

But he said it would still be difficult to quote prices of every single item to patients.