SEVENTY per cent of beds in Hong Kong's first semi-private ward in a public hospital have been filled over the first two weeks, rivalling the occupancy rate of the general wards. The chief executive of Ruttonjee Hospital said the choice of a so-called B-class bed had been welcomed by patients. Dr Liu Shao-haei said the semi-private beds were housed in cubicles of four or five patients. The occupancy rate of the B-class beds, which opened on July 20, compared with 74 per cent in the general wards of the Wan Chai hospital in July. ''I believe that this good occupancy rate is a reflection of the fact that people welcome the choice of paying a little bit more for a better environment,'' said Dr Liu. ''There is a demand for these beds and so far the pilot scheme has been running smoothly.'' Ruttonjee Hospital is the first in the territory to introduce semi-private beds on a trial basis. Patients in the B-class beds pay a flat-rate all-inclusive fee of $600 a day, compared with $54 a day in a general ward. Anonymous questionnaires are given to all patients who occupy the new beds when they leave hospital. The completed forms are sent to the Hospital Authority's head office for evaluation. ''Just from walking around the wards it is obvious that most of the patients welcome the improved environment,'' Dr Liu said. ''Some patients like another choice in a public hospital, while the improved conditions are also appreciated by patients' relatives.'' Extra facilities in the semi-private rooms include air conditioning, more space, a telephone and television and one bathroom per cubicle. The authority is now considering extending the pilot scheme to Tsan Yuk Hospital in Sai Ying Pun. The concept of semi-private beds in public hospitals was approved by the Executive Council in January this year, along with a co-ordinated voluntary insurance scheme. The two options were contained in the ''Towards Better Health'' consultation document released in July last year and, according to the Health and Welfare branch, received clear community support. But the Government was criticised for failing to address the problem of financing Hong Kong's health care services in the face of spiralling medical costs. Another option put forward in the consultation document was the percentage subsidy approach in which patients would be asked to pay a percentage of the actual cost of an average stay in hospital. The idea was opposed by a number of community organisations, although the Secretary for Health and Welfare, Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien, said she would continue to push for its introduction. After announcing plans for semi-private beds in public hospitals and a voluntary insurance scheme in January, Mrs Wong said: ''As regards the percentage subsidy approach, we note the public view. ''I would like to reaffirm the underlying principle of a subsidy approach, which is simple to administer and be fair to consumers. ''If accompanied by the target waiver system, it would enable those who are less well-off to obtain exemption in an open and fair manner. We need to uphold this principle.''