Legislators and concern groups yesterday denounced the government for exaggerating the problem of hospital overstayers when Hospital Authority figures showed 104 patients had stayed at least three months longer than necessary.
They instead called on the Hospital Authority to improve its discharge system.
A Hospital Authority survey last month found 104 patients in public hospitals who refused to leave at least three months after being assessed to be clinically able to do so.
They comprised 59 under 60 and 45 over 60, according to a government paper presented to a joint meeting of the Legislative Council panels on health and welfare services.
Twenty-nine of the overstayers were on welfare. Half of the patients or family members felt they were not medically ready to be discharged or gave financial and other considerations, while 35 were concerned about continuation of self-care at home.
Deputations from 15 associations made submissions to yesterday's meeting, with many saying it was unfair for the government to single out overstaying patients as a reason for long waiting lists at hospitals.
'I do not think we should exaggerate the gravity of the problem,' the vice-president of the Geriatrics Society, Felix Chan Hon-wai, said.
Federation of Trade Unions legislator Chan Yuen-han said the government was misleading the public when it labelled overstaying patients, especially those who also received welfare, 'as greedy people who are abusing the services'.
Council of Social Service's Tik Chi-yuen said there was room for improving the discharge arrangement.
Patients' Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong said: 'Medical social workers should play a more active role in deciding whether a patient should be discharged.'
The groups said there were about 3,000 elderly on waiting list for places at subsidised residential care homes, with most of them facing a three-year wait.
But the government has said that there is enough room for those in need.
Aside from various support services for discharged patients, a transitional care and support centre for people with severe disabilities and five community continuing rehabilitation day centres for discharged patients would be set up.