The government has pledged to look into standardising arrangements for pregnant nurses across hospitals after it was reported that one such nurse suffered from a stroke while she was on a night shift.

The nurse, who was 30-weeks pregnant, worked at Queen Mary Hospital and is still currently in intensive care. The Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff submitted a letter to the Hospital Authority on Saturday demanding that hospitals standardise policies so that nurses who are 28 weeks or more into their pregnancy would not have to do overnight shifts, Apple Daily reported.

Queen Mary Hospital. Photo: Wikicommons.

The association’s chairman, Joseph Lee Kok-long, said that recently, three pregnant nurses had fallen unwell while they were working night shifts and sought assistance from them.

Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said that he would not comment on individual cases, but stressed that the Hospital Authority was very concerned about the health and safety of their staff.

Ko Wing-man. File Photo: Now TV screen capture.

“From what I know, the Hospital Authority does [in some instances] exclude some employees – especially those who are pregnant – from riskier work or night shifts. The next step is for the Hospital Authority to look at whether these practices are the same across different hospital clusters,” Ko said.

“Staff can also discuss the issue amongst themselves – if some of their colleagues receive an exemption, they would then have to take up more night shifts, but I believe they are empathetic and care about each other, and would be understanding.”

John Leong Chi-yan. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Chairman of the Hospital Authority John Leong Chi-yan said: “Right now, we’re discussing how to standardise these practices. We’re looking into exempting nurses who are 32 weeks into their pregnancy [from night shifts]. Does it mean that it’s not possible to do it earlier – like 28 weeks? Not necessarily. If the nurse is not doing well she can tell the chief nurse, and there can be flexibility.”

Currently, Leong said, the Authority generally allows nurses who are 28 to 36 weeks-pregnant to be exempted from night shifts, but the arrangements vary across different hospitals. When asked whether there would be enough manpower to deal with the new arrangements, Leong said that there would be no problems if there was early planning, RTHK reported.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.