The government has unveiled guidelines for private hospitals in a bid to improve transparency in the pricing practices of the institutions.
Under a pilot scheme announced by the Food and Health Bureau (FHB) Thursday, private hospitals must provide patients, prior to admission, with a rough estimate of the charges they are likely to incur.
Bill estimates will be offered for 24 types of non-emergency operations and therapeutic procedures, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Under the scheme that will take effect on October 1, all the 11 private hospitals in the city must also publish historical data of charges related to 12 common operations or therapeutic procedures, including gastroscopy, caesarean section and laser vision correction.
Moreover, they are required to publish standard charges on six major items, including those for wards, surgery rooms, outpatient service and common nursing care.
The measures are aimed at protecting the patients from getting nasty shocks in medical bills after treatment.
Private hospitals have often faced criticism for not being sufficiently transparent with patients in advance in relation to the charges.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr. Ko Wing-man said the FHB will review the program from time to time and make necessary adjustments, along with a mechanism to deal with complaints.
The guidelines will be incorporated into the draft of ordinance for regulating private hospitals that will be proposed to the Legislative Council sometime in the first half of 2017, he said, according to Sing Tao Daily.
The Consumer Council said it is good to see the government make the first step toward protecting patients’ rights.
However, the ultimate goal should be making private hospitals’ quotes legally binding, it said.
Anthony Lee Kai-yiu, chairman of Hong Kong Private Hospitals Association, told Sing Tao that patients should bear in mind that charges for undergoing the same surgery might vary from person to person as their physical conditions or instruments used for the surgery might be different.
Investigations by HKEJ found that many private hospitals have already unveiled their charges as required by the new rules, with St. Teresa’s Hospital and St Paul’s Hospital listing the most items.
But generally speaking, details were missing in most lists.
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