SCMP Saturday, December 9, 2000

Hope for pay-clinics


A pilot project aimed at easing the pressure on overcrowded casualty wards could be resurrected when public hospitals start charging emergency room fees.
Under the project, the Medical Association set up private clinics at Queen Mary and Tuen Mun hospitals. The clinics charged $200 for a consultation, hoping to lure patients who did not want to wait hours for treatment in the casualty ward, where treatment is free.
But the response was poor and, on Thursday, the association's council voted to end the scheme.
Association president and legislator Dr Lo Wing-lok said the project could be resurrected when the Hospital Authority began to charge for emergency treatment.
However, he did not think this would happen in the next 12 months as the Government last week put a freeze on medical fees and charges.
The 33 part-time private doctors and 13 nurses rostered for the project were told yesterday the last session for the clinics will be on Friday. The association has spent nearly $300,000 on the project.