Call to abolish drug-charging policy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 August, 2002, 12:00am

Patients' groups and lawmakers yesterday urged the Hospital Authority to abolish a controversial scheme that requires patients to pay for 'non-essential' drugs.

More than 30 representatives from patients' groups yesterday staged a protest outside the authority headquarters in Kowloon City.

They said the new charging policy, which was introduced at seven public hospitals in New Territories East last Monday, put too much financial burden on the elderly and chronically ill.

They also criticised the lack of transparency and consultation involved in the scheme.

Under the scheme, essential drugs will still be free for patients who pay the flat rate of $37 for outpatient consultations and $68 a day for inpatient treatment at public hospitals. But patients requiring drugs deemed non-essential were told they had to buy them from private stores.

Facing fierce opposition from patients, the authority announced on Wednesday that it would provide the non-essential drugs at cost price.

Legislator Wong Sing-chi met hospital executives yesterday to express patients' grievances with the scheme.

He accused the authority of having made a 'closed door' decision to push through the scheme without public consultation. Mr Wong said some patients could be deprived of medical services because they could not afford new drugs.

The services director of New Territories East hospitals, Dr Lai King-kwong, defended the scheme and said it was not to save costs but to give patients more choice. He said chronically ill patients would be given all the drugs they required as before.

An authority spokesman said it would regularly review the scheme and improve communication with patients.