Pledge to abide by public feeling over medical fees

Peter Li

SECRETARY for Health and Welfare Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien has pledged she will not introduce proposals in a recently-published consultation document on medical fees if they are strongly opposed by the public.

Mrs Wong told a Legislative Council Health Services Panel meeting yesterday that the Government was still consulting the public about proposals in the document, Towards a Better Health.

It has been widely criticised by the public and legislators for introducing higher hospital fees.

But Mrs Wong said it would be ''regrettable'' if the proposals were turned down, as the unfair fee-charging system would not be rectified.

She reiterated that the document's purpose had nothing to do with increasing fees.

The document was meant to rectify the system by basing hospital fees on operating costs, she said.

For example, the present daily fee for a general hospital bed was the same as a psychiatric bed, although the cost of maintaining the former was higher.

This was different from pegging future hospital fees to costs, Mrs Wong added.

''Pegging to costs means whether people can afford certain treatment or not, they have to pay a certain percentage of the cost.

''That is exactly what we are not going to do.'' Independent legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing believed the wording of the document was misleading.

She said all five proposals in the document were about how the fees and the percentage of operating costs were related, and it was natural for the public to think the document was just about pegging fees to operating costs.