Inpatient care to rise from $100 a day to between $300 and $500 a day in bid to slash deficit Public hospital fees will rise dramatically by the end of the year under a Hospital Authority proposal aimed at cutting the government's costs and deterring abuse. Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk said yesterday a proposal to increase a basket of public hospital charges, including those for accident and emergency services and inpatient care, would be handed to the government. The charge for inpatient care would be increased to $500 a day for the first three days, $300 a day for day four to 10 and $100 a day from the eleventh onward. The present charges are $50 for the first day and $100 per day thereafter. The medicine charge would effectively increase fourfold. While it would remain the same at $10, it would provide only four weeks of medicine, not the present 16. The authority chief said the existing charges were too low. 'It is cheaper to stay in hospitals than in elderly homes,' Mr Wu said. 'And we do not have enough bed spaces and manpower. A small increase in the fees could help to prevent abuse.' He said charges would be capped so a patient would not have to pay if the cost of health care exceeded 15 per cent of their income. 'Ten per cent to 15 per cent of disposable income will be set as the ceiling so that there is a safety net so no one will become broke when he or she is admitted to hospital,' he said. However, three months ago Mr Wu noted the cap on disposable income would be 5 to 10 per cent. Welfare recipients would continue to be exempt from charges. The authority faces a $300 million deficit, with 95 per cent of its spending coming from government subsidies. Medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki backed the proposed increases. 'The government cannot continue to shoulder the burden of the present medical system,' he said, pointing out that the city's public hospital fees were among the cheapest in the world. A hospital bed costs $3,300 a day, he said, and patients were charged less than 3 per cent of that. 'In Singapore, even the poorest people have to pay at least 20 per cent of the cost,' he said. But Dr Kwok demanded the government offer more financial relief to patients, such as through tax rebates, and help negotiate new insurance policies with insurers. Patients' Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong criticised the plan. 'The government is to announce a health-care financing plan in the middle of this year which very likely will also mention fee increases ... It means the fees will be increased twice in one year,' he said. He urged the authority to wait for the financing plan. 'It should wait until a big blueprint on the future finance plan is set before thinking of any public hospital fees increases.'