Health officials said on Friday that putting up fees for A&E visits has done the trick when it comes to tackling overcrowding, but even though there's been a drop in patient numbers, waiting times haven't gone down as hoped.
In the 12 months since charges rose from HK$100 to HK$180 per visit in June last year, patient numbers at the city's A&E departments fell 4.4 percent compared to the year before, with more than two million people seeking treatment.
The authority said the move does appear to have put people off from abusing the service and a greater proportion of patients turning up are in genuine need of immediate assistance.
But the bad news is the fee increase hasn't brought down the waiting times, with those for cases deemed urgent but not an emergency even increasing slightly, to 26 minutes on average. For less serious cases, people can still wait hours to be seen.
A chief manager at the Hospital Authority, Vivien Chuang, explained why waiting times have got longer.
"This may be due to the increase in more severe patients and also the ageing populating attending our A&E and also the case complexity which demands more investigation," Chuang said.
The authority said another reason for lengthening delays is that casualty departments are carrying out more checks on patients, such as CT scans and X-rays, to help them decide who needs to be admitted to hospital.
Dr Li Kai-ming, the chairman of the authority's A&E coordinating committee, said diverting more elderly people to suitable outpatient services would help bring down casualty waiting times.
Even though the fee rises haven't cut waiting times, officials said there are no plans at present to put the charges up even further.