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  • Apr 21, 2014
  • Updated: 11:49am
NewsHong Kong
HEALTH CARE

Private hospital's hefty bill leaves patient gasping

Doctor agrees to slash charges after woman objects to paying

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 March, 2013, 4:43am

When Bobbie-Ann Poulton went to the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital last year to stitch a gash in her foot, the bill came as a shock.

The charges for the 30-minute procedure - including suturing for eight stitches and other services - added up to HK$10,655.

"They did not tell me the expected fee. If they had warned me of the price I would definitely not have had it done," she told the South China Morning Post.

Complaints like these have put the spotlight on what critics say is a lack of transparency in charging at private hospitals, most of which do not provide a full list of charges for procedures.

A review by the Post found that most private hospitals do not provide comprehensive price information for simple procedures even upon inquiry.

Private health care may face reform soon. Last October, the health minister formed a steering committee to review their operations, and it is set to submit a report within a year.

Poulton, who cut her foot on a broken bottle while camping at Sai Wan two days earlier, refused to pay the bill and was further "gobsmacked" when the doctor offered to reduce it if she agreed to settle it immediately.

"OK, OK I'll change your bill to HK$6,000 if you leave now," she quoted the doctor as saying. "I was gobsmacked. This professional doctor had attempted to drop the price and bribe me to stop causing a fuss."

OK I'll change your bill to HK$6,000 if you leave now

The bill included HK$8,500 for suturing, HK$700 for an urgent consultation and HK$550 for the X-ray.

The hospital said staff at the registration desk had reminded Poulton before the consultation that she should ask the doctor about the fees before treatment. It was not its policy to adjust fees, but the staff would help remedy any dispute, a spokesman said.

Poulton also complained that she should have been charged HK$400 for the consultation instead of the HK$700 out-of-hours charge. The hospital said bleeding wounds were considered urgent and were charged at HK$700. It said the patient had paid HK$100 and the rest was still being sought.

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oxymoron14
Allow me to make a generalization. Chinese are extreme opportunists that exploit loopholes in people and the law to maximize their profits in the expense of others without leaving a shred of ethics that keeps their conscience in check. In a money mongering society such as Hong Kong, I would think most people who enroll in medical schools are money driven more than having a genuine heart to serve people in needs. Without compassion and empathy, a doctor is just another businessman, some ruthless and some heartless and some being indifferent to their patients. The pathetic incident discussed in this article is the result of the weak and feeble programs of ethics provided in local med schools combined with the cultural repertoire of greed. Integrity is a rare commodity in HK. FYI, I am 100% Chinese.
rongeo
Some doctors are merely rip-off artists!
mercedes2233
If they announced their fees ahead of time, at least patients would have a chance to consider whether or not to use their services.
islemount
Exactly. It's symptomatic of the greed that is rotting this city from the inside out.
gkuhl
If you are too poor to pay for proper medical treatment, go to a public hospital, a butcher or just die. This is Hong Kong and proud to be world's freest economy.
oxymoron14
Not sure where you were raised but you sure have some serious ethical issues.
honger
Dear Ms Poulton,
Bravo! I suggest you test them by not settling the bill!!
tubbataha
Two incidents both from Adventist, a friends son dislocated a shoulder playing school sport and went to Adventist, while being examined the shoulder went back into place, so they were surprised to get a hefty bill including aneasthetist and operating theatre fees ! Explanation - they might have been needed so were on standby - and you are insured so why worry !
Second, against my preference I was persuaded to transfer my wife from Cannosa to Adventist by a doctor because he said the equipment at Canossa was not working(Canossa staff were surprised to hear that) Once at Adventist I was advised I would have to sign a $15,000 deposit, I agreed but was surprised when the credit card slip was made out for $30,000. Explanation - Oh the bill will be far more than that so just sign it.
Medical care should be about best care for patients - not profit.
islemount
What I don't understand is why the insurance companies who are footing the bills for patients with private coverage don't push back? Surely, it is in their financial interests to not pay out $40,000 for a $7000 procedure, because a patient had a private room instead of a ward.
I suspect some collusion and back-office shenanigans are going on.
jimmybabe
Then perhaps she shouldn't have gone to a private hospital in the first place. It's common knowledge private hospital charges are far more expensive than public hospitals, and for very good reasons. The waiting time is shorter, the facilities are more advance, the service is better, etc. she made the wrong choice, didn't ask about the fees, and then refused to pay after the service. Now even a complaint about it. I am absolutely gobsmacked.

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