The health of thousands of elderly people will be threatened by the latest rise in hospital charges, patient watchdog groups said yesterday. They fear the elderly may stop seeking treatment and could try to treat themselves if they cannot afford the 11.7 per cent increase. The criticism follows news that out-patient fees will jump from $34 to $37 a day in November and room charges from $60 to $68. Hospital Authority chairman Peter Woo Kwong-ching admitted yesterday the increase would affect some patients, but claimed there were enough safety nets. He added: 'Certain people will have hardship, yes, but overall the system caters for hardship cases. 'We have to look at this in perspective. The Government is subsidising 98 per cent of medical expenses at the moment. The public is only asked to pay for two per cent. 'The room fee just covers the three meals a day. We are talking about a 12 per cent increase in 11/2 years which means a eight per cent increase per annum. 'I believe most Hong Kong people will not consider this unreasonable. For those [who do], they can apply for funding.' But Yung Wai-mui of the Hong Kong Patients' Rights Association said poorer patients would simply stay away from hospital. 'It will harm the elderly a lot. They will decide not to use medical services and that will jeopardise their health. There is also a danger they will try to treat themselves.'