Patient numbers in emergency wards at Hong Kong public hospitals fall 7 per cent amid fee rise

Visitor numbers fell to 5,789 in contrast to more than 6,000 people each of the two weekends earlier, but authorities say other factors may be in play

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 June, 2017, 11:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 June, 2017, 11:44pm

The number of people visiting emergency wards at public hospitals on Sunday dropped by 7 per cent compared with the past two weeks after a fee rise.

Hospital Authority chief executive Dr Leung Pak-yin revealed the figures after new charges at public hospitals came into effect on Sunday. Among them, the fee for emergency wards increased to HK$180 from HK$100.

The total number of people using emergency services at public hospitals was 5,789 on Sunday, in contrast to about 6,100 to 6,200 people on each of the previous two Sundays.

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Leung said he hoped that the increased fees would narrow the price gap between public and private medical services, contributing to patients with less urgent cases opting for private doctors instead, thereby reducing waiting times for public emergency wards.

But Leung stressed that the number of patients recorded in the past few weeks might not yet fully reflect the effects of the fee rise, as other factors such as weather conditions must also be considered.

“We need to monitor for a longer period to assess the impact, especially on less urgent patients,” he said.

Leung, who visited Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Monday to oversee frontline operations, said the Yau Ma Tei hospital however did not see a great reduction in patient numbers at emergency wards.

He suggested it could be due to a larger influx of patients with urgent cases – such as those in critical condition – at the hospital.

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Leung said such patients comprised 55 per cent of emergency wards at Queen Elizabeth.

According to the authority’s website, patients with non-urgent cases at the hospital had to wait more than five hours to be treated.

Meanwhile, he added that the authority had a shortfall of about 500 doctors this month – the most for the year.

He said about 200 to 300 doctors have left public hospitals for other practices in this period, but graduates would fill the gap in July after completion of internships.