Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced that the government will be providing the Hospital Authority with additional funding of HK$500 million to ease the heavy workload experienced by medical workers at public hospitals.

Lam’s announcement came after the Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff placed full-page ads in newspapers last week, criticising the Hospital Authority’s failure to hire more nurses to handle instances of overcapacity at hospitals.

Lam told reporters on Tuesday that the winter flu season had exerted more pressure on the system. She added that, last year, she personally witnessed how crowded hospitals were during visits, and noted the pressure medical workers were under.

Carrie Lam. File Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“I have to say that I understand and recognise that while on the one hand, we have a very sound, very reliable public hospital system which we’re all very proud of but… at the same time, the Hospital Authority, being such a huge organisation now, does have some systematic issues that we need to tackle,” she said.

“I have every determination to tackle those systemic issues together with the Secretary for Food and Health. But in the short term, we need to address the heavy workload at some of the public hospitals.”

As of Monday, all but two public hospitals detailed in the government’s daily report had a bed occupancy rate of 100 per cent or more.

Relieve workload

Lam said that the funds are to provide the Hospital Authority management with “every assurance” in resource support to implement short-term or immediate measures to relieve the workload, and so that they can speedily put them in place. They will include reducing the clerical workload of nurses or hiring part-time staff during the busy period.

Lam said that the authority would first need to use their reserves, and then the government will repay the amount in the financial year 2018-2019. It means, the funding will not be potentially delayed at the Legislative Council’s Financial Committee.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Jordan. Photo: HKFP/Tom Grundy.

Lam also said she wished to boost staff morale and better retain staff by removing a practice whereby any new recruit into the Hospital Authority forgoes pay point increments during their first two years. “I feel that removing this particular practice will be, in my view, a sort of recognition to the very dedicated staff that we now have in the Hospital Authority.”

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.