The government has proposed to increase charges for public medical services, including those provided by emergency rooms and general outpatient clinics of public hospitals.
The charges for public services provided to eligible patients – most adults and children holding Hong Kong identity cards – have not been adjusted since 2003.
The fee for Accident & Emergency services was proposed to increase from HK$100 to HK$180 owing to increased usage, according to a document from the Food and Health Bureau to the Legislative Council released on Tuesday.
Previously, the Hospital Authority proposed that the charge should be increased to HK$220. But the government said such an increase may increase the financial burden of the general public and “may possibly affect their accessibility to adequate medical care.”
“[It] should be able to strike a balance between encouraging appropriate use of public healthcare services and addressing the concerns on increasing the financial burden of the general public in using the A&E services,” the document read.
Professor Peter Yuen Pok-man, an expert on public medical policy at the Polytechnic University’s College of Professional and Continuing Education, told RTHK that the new HK$180 charge is still cheaper than that of most private doctors, and that he believed the new charge may not help to reduce emergency room usage.
The Bureau proposed to increase charges for general outpatient clinics from HK$45 to HK$50.
For specialist outpatient clinics, the government proposed to increase charges for first visits from HK$100 to HK$135 and increase charges for subsequent visits from HK$60 to HK$80.
The maintenance fee for acute care beds was proposed to rise from HK$100 to HK$120.
Drug charges were proposed to increase from HK$10 to HK$15 per item.
The government aims to implement the new charges in mid-2017.
Under current mechanisms, they will be reviewed biennially by the Hospital Authority Board.