The Hong Kong Hospital Authority (HA) has demanded a group of radiologists at the Princess Margaret Hospital provide reasons for their absence after their manager refused to hand over the names of team members who went on strike in February. Medics were demanding action on the looming Covid-19 epidemic.
Local media reported on Wednesday that all medics from the department of radiology at the public hospital in Kwai Chung received a letter from the government hospitals management body recently. It asked them to explain and clarify why they did not show up at work between February 3 and 7.
Thousands of medical workers in Hong Kong staged a five-day strike during the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, as they demanded the government impose a full shutdown of the city’s border with mainland China, where the first case of Covid-19 was reported.
The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance (HAEA) said at the time that Hong Kong must curb the source of the deadly virus, otherwise the city may never have enough manpower and resources to contain the epidemic.
According to media reports on Wednesday, the HA’s human resources department wrote to around 20 radiologists at the Princess Margaret Hospital. The sources said only a few medics from the department had joined the strike, but the authorities “assumed” many of them were involved after their department head declined to give the management a name list.
Dr. Arisina Ma, president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association told Ming Pao that some doctors who only joined the department in July also received the letter. She said the HA could have checked who was on duty by looking at computer records: “[Absentee staff] thought it was crazy and unreasonable.”
Stand News quoted a source as saying that the staffers were “disappointed and angry” at the HA’s decision, while another radiologist concerned told Ming Pao that he did not take part in the strike, but some of his peers were worried the incident may affect their career prospects.
In response to media enquiries, the HA did not comment on the incident or explain why it issued letters to all doctors in the department. The statutory body only said it has written to employees who went on strike, asking them to confirm their dates of their absence and give explanations.
Last Saturday, the HAEA re-shared a post on Facebook from February and said HA staffers should not respond to any “unreasonable requests” from their superiors. The alliance said they would issue a sample reply for their members to respond to requests linked to the strike action after seeking legal advice.
“If your superiors make any unreasonable requests because of the strike, please save all evidence… to protect your personal interests and for future follow-up work,” the alliance wrote.