Two more organisations that had planned to bid to build private hospitals on a pair of sites identified by the government withdrew from the tendering process as the deadline passed yesterday.
A string of Hong Kong and international investors, including private medical companies and universities, have pulled out of the bidding, blaming restrictions on who they can treat and investment requirements imposed by the government.
Chinese University and the private Union Hospital quit the bidding process yesterday. While the government has refused to comment on how many applications it has received for the sites, just three organisations have publically announced their intention to bid.
Fortis Healthcare, based in India, which runs the city's 590 Quality Healthcare clinics, is bidding for both sites, at Wong Chuk Hang in Aberdeen and Tai Po, while the University of Hong Kong also wants to build in Wong Chuk Hang. Raffles Medical Group, a Singapore-based company which runs 70 clinics in its home country and three in Hong Kong, revealed last night that it had also submitted a bid for Wong Chuk Hang.
The government, which says the new private hospitals are needed to correct an imbalance which sees 90 per cent of patients use public hospitals while the majority of doctors work in the private sector, is insisting that bidders offer at least 300 beds and that Hongkongers will have to make up 50 per cent of patients. No more than 20 per cent of beds must be for obstetrics, an area in which private hospitals have invested heavily because of the influx of mainland women to give birth in the city, which Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has promised to stamp out.
The restrictions have put off the private Union Hospital in Tai Wai, which had expressed an interest in bidding for Wong Chuk Hang.
'After a thorough study and evaluation of the tender terms by our team of experts, we found there are too many restrictions. Also, there is a steep slope in the site. The cost of construction will be too high,' the hospital said.
Chinese University said yesterday that it had decided not to submit a tender as the university was not able to reach an agreement on the bid with its potential partner. Earlier, a leading private hospital, the Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital and another potential bidder, Asia Financial Holdings, also decided to pull out.
Fortis is pressing ahead with its bid despite the restrictions, said its chief executive, Vishal Bali: 'We have been preparing the proposal for 16 months, long before the government opened the tender,' he said.
The company would provide about 400 beds at each site, Bali said, with an intensive care unit and different specialities offered at each. At least 70 per cent of beds would be set aside for local patients, he said.
The company also had no problem with another government requirement, that 30 per cent of services be offered as part of fixed-price packages, so patients would know in advance how much their treatment would cost.
More than 30 organisations expressed an interest when the government announced its plans to offer sites for the construction of private hospitals in 2010. Two further sites in Tseung Kwan O and Lantau Island will be put out to tender later.
The Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, said he has no comment on the response to the tender, and he could not disclose the number of bids received. The winning bidders are expected to be announced early next year.