THE consultative paper on health care, which includes proposals to increase hospital charges, was endorsed by the Legislative Council yesterday. Legislators voted 34 to 16 in favour of a motion debate sponsored by Dr Lam Kui-chun from the Liberal Party to endorse the spirit of the ''Towards Better Health'' consultative paper. The motion urged the Government ''to formulate a policy which ensures that the less able to pay can have access to adequate health care at no more than nominal charges, and additional funds are found to cope with the escalating costs as well as to make available the highest possible quality of medical care for the future, without unduly burdening society''. An amendment moved by United Democrat Dr Conrad Lam Kui-shing calling on the Government to shoulder the burden was narrowly defeated by 28 to 24 after a heated, three-hour debate. The proposed amendment said health care charges should not be based on operating costs, and itemised charging should not be adopted. Dr Conrad Lam urged the Government to take full responsibility for the public's health because it was a social welfare service. Moving the motion debate, Dr Lam Kui-chun said the Government had to devise new health care charges because of escalating costs. But Dr Conrad Lam said Dr Lam Kui-chun was hiding behind the ''user-pays'' concept. He said he had moved the amendment because the original motion debate had failed to reflect public opposition to charges based on operating costs, and to itemised charging. Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, on behalf of the Liberal Party, criticised Dr Conrad Lam's amendment. ''It is socialism to take health care services as a form of social welfare. ''It is ultimately the people not the Government who have to bear the cost, resulting in increasing taxation,'' Mrs Chow said. In response, United Democrat Szeto Wah said Mrs Chow had simplified the meaning of socialism. She was wrong to say United Democrats must be socialists because opposition to itemised charging meant placing the financial burden on society. The Secretary for Health and Welfare, Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien, reiterated the Government's position that escalating costs meant it was time for structural reform of the health care service. The Government hoped to standardise existing charges imposed by different public hospitals through itemising, she said. The motion debate followed public consultation on the ''Towards Better Health'' document which ended late last month.