The Hospital Authority has temporarily boosted an overtime pay scheme for public hospital staff members by ten per cent, in an effort to attract them to work overtime amid the winter flu surge.

The rate of the Special Honorarium Scheme allowance has been increased by ten per cent to encourage staff members across different disciplines including doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, clerical and supporting staff. The rate adjustment will be in effect for 12 weeks and may be further extended subject to the service situation at public hospitals.

The new measure came after more than 200 public hospital doctors attended a rally to express their discontent over heavy workload and inadequate overtime pay, in front of Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan and Hospital Authority CEO Leung Pak-yin. Many held signs bearing a Chinese character suggesting “bursting point.”

public hospital doctors
Doctors hold signs suggesting “bursting point.” Photo:

Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association President Mak Siu-king had said on Saturday that the scheme calculates the extra pay using the median wage of the rank that doctors belong to. However, many senior doctors were already receiving the top salary of their rank.

Mak said that under the scheme’s previous arrangement, the hourly rate of their extra overtime pay would be lower than their actual hourly salary.

public hospital doctors

Leung said after the rally that he understood that the rate of the Special Honorarium Scheme was not attractive enough to doctors and that the government will try to make improvements.

Mak said close to ten per cent of doctors had left the public hospital system.

Mak Siu-king
Mak Siu-king. Photo:

“We have exchanged our opinions with the authorities on how to effectively convince staff members who want to serve the public hospital system to stay,” he said. “This is not just about money, but about improvements in front line administrative work, service quality, as well as equipment.”

On Sunday, 14 public hospitals had bed occupancy rates of over 100 per cent. The highest rate was at Pok Oi Hospital, which was at 120 per cent its capacity.

Hospital Authority Chair John Leong said on Sunday that the lack of space and manpower cannot be solved in a short time and patients will have to be moved into rehabilitation wards which were less crowded than public hospitals.

Medical sector lawmaker Pierre Chan said after appearing on RTHK’s weekly City Forum that the move may not help with the situation.

Leung Pak-yin Sophia Chan Pierre Chan
From left: Leung Pak-yin, Sophia Chan and Pierre Chan. Photo:

“There is extra administrative work when patients move to another hospital. Secondly, patients will complain that ‘I have a fever, why should I move to another ward? I haven’t finished here, I need to file a complaint.’ It may take us ten minutes to care for a patient, but we will need an hour or two to deal with complaints,” Chan said.

Lau Hoi-man, an officer for the Hong Kong Allied Health Professionals and Nurse Association, also said the problem will not be solved by moving patients to rehabilitation wards.

“There is less manpower and fewer facilities at rehabilitation wards. If we move patients to rehabilitation wards, I don’t think patients will receive the most ideal care,” he said after appearing on City Forum.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.