Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority (HA) has said it will recover salary paid out to staff who were absent from duty during a Covid-19-related medics strike from February 3 to 7. The authority added that there will be no further human resources action against them.

Medics on strike holding placard. File Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press

In an email sent to all staff on Friday, the chair of the authority Henry Fan announced the decision was made following careful consideration at an HA board meeting, taking into account labour laws, human resources policies, contract obligations and staff morale: “The Authority believes such an arrangement is a reasonable, lawful and fair treatment towards staff absence… The matter of absence has damaged the public’s confidence towards public healthcare.”

In the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak, over 7,000 public hospital medics joined a week-long strike in February demanding the government shut borders with the mainland to prevent imported cases.

They also urged the authorities to ensure a stable supply of medical masks and requested sufficient isolation wards, support for healthcare staff looking after patients in isolation, as well as a halt all non-emergency services.

‘Extra efficient in retaliating’

Over the following months, medics were asked by the Hospital Authority (HA) to explain their absence on strike days, with letters threatening further action. Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said in mid November that the medics who joined the strike would be handled within the “established mechanism.”

The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, the staff union which called the strike, said in a Facebook post on Friday that the authority’s reaction had been political : “This would only further lower the already poor morale of the staff that are working tirelessly at the very front of battling the pandemic… Once again, the HA has proven to be inefficient in tackling Covid-19, but extra efficient in retaliating against its staff. It is quite clear that the political work of pleasing the government is at the utmost importance amongst all the work of the HA.”

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.