Doctors and nurses at public hospitals in Hong Kong are so overworked that they’ve had enough. On Sunday, more than 100 members of the Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff, which represents 60 per cent of the city’s 50,000 nurses, gathered outside the government headquarters to protest against their working conditions. The nurses, as well as some doctors and former patients, brought black balloons to symbolise their unhappiness.
According to a statement issued by the Hong Kong Paediatric Foundation on Sunday, the city’s health care professionals including doctors and nurses have been overwhelmed by the rapid increase of patients during the winter flu season. The already tough situation has been worsened by doctors and nurses in public hospitals leaving for the private sector, according to the statement.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee, who headed the University of Hong Kong’s school of nursing before joining the government in 2012, showed up at the rally to speak to the protesters.
Chan pledged to ask the Hospital Authority to look into the problem. She also told the protesting nurses that, starting from the end of this month, the pay for frontline medical staff working extra shifts would be increased by 10 per cent.
But she was booed by the protesters, who said public hospitals needed more staff, not money.
“The HKSAR government has recognised the manpower shortage and the imbalance between public and private sectors for decades and yet the soothing measures are still limited,” said the foundation. “The government does not have a long-term health policy and most remedies are ad hoc responses to each crisis only.”
In response, a Hospital Authority statement said that, in 2018-19, the authority had added 574 beds and allocated HK$520 million for public hospitals to prepare for the increase in workload.
Although 1,400 nurses were leaving the authority, it would recruit 2,230 nurses in 2018-19, resulting in a net increase of 830. Public hospitals had also hired about 800 part-time and temporary nurses to alleviate the workload of frontline staff during the winter surge, the statement added.