Private doctors see loss-maker in HK$50 flu vaccinations

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 July, 2009, 12:00am

'Everything costs money.' That was what private doctor David Hsu Kwok-fai had to say yesterday about the seemingly simple process of giving a flu shot.

'When patients come in for a vaccine injection, our nurses will register them and ask them about their allergic history and if they have any symptoms, like fever or a cough,' said Dr Hsu, who practises in Diamond Hill. 'All of these create costs. In addition, we need to store the vaccines in a dedicated refrigerator, causing extra costs in electricity and equipment maintenance.'

Although he was unable to say exactly how much it would cost to administer a vaccine shot, the general medical practitioner said he believed many clinics would sustain a loss if they were paid only HK$50.

Dr Hsu's clinic charges HK$150 for a vaccination for seasonal flu.

'I don't know how the government has come up with this HK$50 figure, but I am pretty sure they have not taken into account the rents paid by private clinics,' he said.

For his clinic, which he has run with another doctor for two years, the rent alone is HK$50,000 a month - half of their operating costs. Dr Hsu said the government should leave it open for private doctors to set their own fees for vaccinations, as it had in the past.

'The public hospitals should offer free vaccinations for unprivileged people while others, who can afford to pay for a flu vaccination, can go to private clinics,' he said.

Another private doctor, Lau Hon-chung, who practises in Tsuen Wan, shared Dr Hsu's views.

'We cannot make any money charging HK$50 a shot,' he said.

'The government last year paid HK$80 for a seasonal flu shot. Why have they cut it this time?'

Dr Lau estimated that HK$50 was just the 'cost price' for a shot at his clinic in Riviera Garden, for which he pays about HK$40,000 to HK$50,000 a month on rent, staff salaries and other operational expenses.

'The government can provide free vaccination services, with their staff able to continue enjoying a reasonable salary every month, but we have to make every cent by ourselves to pay for our staff and everything else,' he said. 'In my opinion, HK$60 or HK$70 would be reasonable payment for a jab.'