01/14/2014 12:51 EST | Updated 03/16/2014 05:59 EDT

Montreal superhospitals may charge for overnight stay

Patients who need to stay overnight at one of Montreal’s two new superhospitals may be facing user fees.

With the aim of reducing the risk of spreading infections, the new hospitals — one managed by the McGill University Health Centre network (MUHC) and the other managed by the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) network — will only have private rooms, according to Radio-Canada's program La Facture.

Quebec patients have traditionally had to pay extra fees for that level of privacy. At the Montreal General hospital, patients fork over $71 a night for a semi-private room and $141 for a fully private room.

Michel Fontaine, the deputy minister for Quebec’s health ministry, said hospitals rely on that cash as revenue.

“It’s not a secret. It’s written in law. It’s a source of revenue for hospitals – the contribution of customers who choose something other than the insured service,” Fontaine said.

“It’s normal for people to pay for something more luxurious.”

Now the ministry says it’s looking at introducing a sliding scale fee for the private rooms at the new superhospitals, based on patient income.

Fontaine said the formula could be similar to that applied to patients residing in provincial long-term care homes, known by their French acronym, CHSLDs.

Pierre Blain, the executive director of RPCU, a Quebec patients' rights group, calls that option “unacceptable."

“Hospitals are a necessity, not a choice,” he said.

“To fight infections means you have to put in place some services, but not to charge people twice for the same services that you are paying for with your taxes.”

The health ministry said it is setting up a committee to study options before it makes a final decision.