Some 64 percent of respondents in a recent survey opposed a proposal by the Hospital Authority to increase the service fee for every visit to a government hospital’s accident and emergency department from HK$100 to HK$220 per patient.
According to the survey conducted by the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, 35 percent of the 1,394 respondents considered it best to maintain the existing fees, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Among those who agreed to a fee hike, 22 percent said the maximum rate of increase should be between 26 and 50 percent, which would translate to a fee of HK$126 to HK$150 per visit.
Only 11 percent agreed that the fee should be raised to HK$200 or more.
The survey also showed 94 percent of the respondents considered the waiting time for emergency service very long.
About 80 percent said that the service is being abused, while 53 percent said the fee hike could help alleviate the situation.
Legislator Alice Mak Mei-kuen said the fee hike would only help temporarily and was more likely to be counterproductive.
Most low-income earners are likely to refuse to seek medical attention even when necessary in order to save money.
Mak said the government should table a better solution to reform and improve our medical system.
The acting Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chi said during her visit to Tuen Mun Hospital and Yan Chai Hospital on Tuesday that the fee hike was not solely meant to reduce the number of patients in emergency rooms.
The government has earmarked HK$10 billion to promote public-private partnership programs, such as those for patients with chronic conditions, which will be extended to cover all the 18 districts, Chan said.
Both the Hospital Authority and the Food and Health Bureau are collecting views on the proposed fee increases, and a decision will be made in a few months’ time.
Leung Pak-yin, chief executive of the Hospital Authority, said 65 percent of patients at emergency rooms are non-urgent.
He said he hoped the fee hike would help reduce the number of patients in emergency and accident departments by about 10 percent, which would then the authority to deploy some of the medical staff to general out-patient clinics.
As of Jan. 30, the number of emergency room patients had reached 6,146, compared with the daily average of 5,900 during off-peak hours, Hospital Authority data showed.
There were 4,247 patients on the first day of Lunar New Year, rising to 5,659 patients on the second day.
Emergency rooms of government hospitals were expected to be more crowded on the first working day after the Lunar New Year holidays.
Leung said those with only mild symptoms should seek treatment from private doctors.
Chan, meanwhile, said the number of flu cases have increased since the end of December and is believed to be slowly entering the peak period.
The Hospital Authority has responded to the situation by adding 500 beds in government hospitals.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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