01/16/2014 06:38 EST | Updated 03/18/2014 05:59 EDT

Health minister Réjean Hébert denies patients will pay for hospital rooms

Quebec's health minister RéjeanHébert says patients won't be charged for rooms at the two new superhospitals.

Earlier this week, CBC News quoted a former deputy minister and current head of the CHUM project saying hospital patients who stay overnight could be forced to pay for rooms depending on their income.

Hébert issued a statement Thursday, stating such a scenario is not under consideration.

“I want to reassure the population: free hospitalization is here to stay, and room tariffs based on revenue is not an option,” Hébert said in the statement.

The two new superhospitals will only feature private rooms.

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

But Hébert says having only private rooms at the superhospitals is a way to reduce the spread of infections — not to raise more money.

“For sanitary reasons, such as reducing the risks of infection, the number of rooms with  more than two people is tending to diminish in favour of private and semi-private rooms,” he said.

“The configuration changes in our hospital environments oblige us to review our pricing ensure the principle of free care.”

The health ministry says it has set up a committee to review how the new hospitals will charge patients for rooms.

“Whatever fee model we use, our priority is to maintain rooms that are free of charge and to respect the choices of patients,” Hébert said.