Hospitals eyeing sites told to open up on fees
Private hospitals that want to build on four new sites to be offered by the government will have to be more transparent about their charges. The government may also revise regulations governing increases in private hospital fees.
The health minister, Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, said this yesterday in the face of concerns raised by community groups about recent rises in private hospital charges at a time when some have surpluses of up to HK$400 million. But he said this did not mean the government would be regulating private hospitals' operations, including their financial surpluses.
He said he believed the hospitals would set prices according to market demand.
The government is preparing to put out to tender next year two pieces of land earmarked for private hospitals, with two more to follow later.
The move is part of a plan to expand private medical services in order to improve the balance between public and private medical services in the city.
'For the four new plots of land [bidders] will have to fulfil certain criteria including increasing transparency on charges,' he said after a meeting of the Legislative Council's health services panel. 'We will consider later whether there is a need to make amendments to private hospital regulations.'
Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital announced a three to four per cent price increase in July, and St Teresa's Hospital in Kowloon was reported to be increasing room charges by five to six per cent last month.
Chow said plots in Wong Chuk Hang and Tai Po would be put up for tender next year for private hospital development. Two more, in Tseung Kwan O and Lantau, would be offered later. He said the government would seek more land for the development of private hospitals.
Former medical sector legislator Dr Kwok Ka-ki said services in both the public and private sectors were saturated. He also found that financial records of 10 of the 13 private hospitals were not accessible to the public through the government's online Companies Registry.
There is currently no law regulating what fees private hospitals charge or the surpluses they are allowed to run up. However, the Code of Practice for Private Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Maternity Homes requires private hospitals to clearly state charges for patients' reference, and to notify them if charges change.