POLITICAL parties have called on the Government to strengthen its monitoring of private hospitals, but are cautious about moves to make medical negligence a criminal offence. Liberal Party member Ada Wong Ying-kay said the ordinance governing the licensing of private hospitals was 30 years old and it was time the administration put in place a mechanism to ensure 'hardware and software' was up to scratch. On RTHK's Party Line programme yesterday, she said the Government should ensure that facilities were working properly and that hospital staff were competent. Three patients at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital died on Thursday after contaminated water was pumped into their blood while they were receiving kidney dialysis treatment. Democratic Party member Chan Kwok-leung said there must be a mechanism to prevent such blunders. Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong legislator Chan Yuen-han said there was no reason why private hospitals should not be subject to Hospital Authority monitoring. She was also unhappy that members sitting on the two inquiries into Thursday's blunder had been appointed by the hospital and the Health Department. Miss Chan said both the hospital and the department were party to the incident and there might be conflicts of interest. Medical constituency legislator Dr Leong Che-hung said he agreed that even though private hospitals did not receive government subsidies, the Government still had a role to make sure they met minimum standards with regard to their services to patients. But Dr Leong, who was invited by the hospital to sit on its inquiry, said market forces would also play a part in maintaining their standards. He objected to a suggestion that medical negligence should be made a criminal offence. He said new technologies and complex operations often carried high risks. Doctors might be unwilling to use these technologies if they risked being put in jail. His views were echoed by other doctors, legislator Dr Tang Siu-tong of the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance and Dr Choi Kin of the Practising Estate Doctors' Association. Dr Tang said such a move was likely to deter many people from entering the profession.