Private doctors and hospitals are set to raise fees this year to cover increasing costs. Doctors Union president Henry Yeung Chiu-fat said many privately owned clinics would increase fees by about 10 per cent on average in the next few months. He described the increase as 'minimal', saying it would not have much effect on patients. Dr Yeung said the increase should be 'forgiven' as the fees had remained unchanged for about a decade, mostly at HK$140 to HK$150 for a consultation and two days' medicine. 'We were told by our members that the rent of clinics in public housing estates surged by up to 160 per cent at the start of the month. Clinics in other areas also have to pay as much as double for rents.' The cost of medicines had jumped about 10 per cent on average at the start of this month. Cough syrup had seen the highest percentage increase, to HK$800 for about 7.8 litres from HK$200 to HK$300 last year. Staff at private clinics had also enjoyed a 5 per cent pay rise on average, further pushing up operating costs. Dr Yeung said he expected the fee increases would have minimal effect on business as he believed most people had more purchasing power thanks to pay rises. But Cheung Tak-hai, chairman of the Alliance for Patients' Mutual Help Organisations, said the price increase would lay a heavy burden on patients. 'Those who are not very sick may choose to buy medicines at pharmacies on their own without consulting a doctor. That may make them sicker and in need of hospital treatment.' Private Hospitals Association chairman Alan Lau Kwok-lam said private hospitals might also raise fees in two to three months due to the surging costs of labour, drugs and surgery supplies. General Chamber of Pharmacy chairman Lau Oi-kwok said retail prices of drugs increased by up to 7 per cent at pharmacies this month. He said the price of a 20-tablet pack of Panadol increased from HK$20 to HK$22, while the price of a pack of Fortune Pharmacal Coltalin with 12 tablets had increased HK$1 to HK$20.