Leung Chun-ying’s administration is confident of passing long-awaited laws to end dubious practices of private health firms before the end of its term in 2017, the Post has learnt. The legislation will cover areas such as, standards of facilities, clinical quality and price transparency. It will also impose much steeper fines for violations. Private hospitals will have to set out all fees and inform patients of estimated total charges for non-emergency operations before the procedures. The aim is to restore public confidence in a private sector criticised for overcharging, lack of quality control, and a reluctance to handle complaints and medical blunders. READ MORE: Hong Kong health chief says 10-year plan will help public hospitals retain manpower It is the one major reform in the sector most likely to be passed within Leung’s remaining term and is expected to go before lawmakers after the Legislative Council elections this year, according to a government source. “We do not expect much resistance from lawmakers as the issue is not controversial,” said the source from the Food and Health Bureau, who predicted a smooth passage of the bill through Legco. “The regulations for private hospitals and clinics have long been criticised as too lax and outdated. It is time to strengthen the government’s role in supervising the quality of these services.” The government expected the move to pave the way for another revamp of the medical insurance scheme, encouraging people to use private health services to ease the burden on the public sector. READ MORE: Hong Kong private health insurance plan ‘will help 1.5 million people’ A proposal to revamp the doctors’ regulatory body will also be submitted to Legco in the first quarter of this year. But legislation on a proposed voluntary medical insurance scheme is not likely to be completed within Leung’s term. Under the new requirements, private health firms will need a licence for premises from the Department of Health, which could impose penalties for violations. A public consultation on the proposal ended on December 15, 2014, and the government is drafting details of the bill. It will cover 19 regulatory aspects, with private hospitals required to set up a channel to handle complaints over disputes or possible medical blunders , which will be directed to a centralised system supervised by the Department of Health. Private hospitals currently face a maximum penalty of a HK$2,000 for any violation, seen as far too low to have any deterrent effect. This will be increased to a maximum of HK$5 million or imprisonment for two years, and suspension of the licence. READ MORE: Long-awaited manpower review for health care system out in first half of 2016 The source also revealed that private hospitals run by religious groups would need to admit a certain proportion of medical professionals to their boards, which are currently made up of clergymen. “We noticed that some private hospitals with church backgrounds now have a governing board formed only by sisters or other clergymen who do not have medical backgrounds. “This is not a good way to govern a health care institution,” the government source said. Patients’ Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong welcomed the bill and hoped it could be enacted as soon as possible. An appeal system should also be in place to handle public complaints rejected by the hospitals and Department of Health, he said.