HK hospital support staff protest against manpower shortages in wards during flu season

31-Jan-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Support staff at public hospitals who do orderly work such as changing diapers and washing patients staged a protest on Wednesday decrying insufficient manpower to handle the heavy workload during winter influenza season.

A representative from the Hong Kong Medical and Health Care Staff general Union says that two care assistants and one nurse have to serve as many as 50 to 55patients per night between them in hospital wards.

The union’s protest came after an outcry from doctors and nurses, who have also criticised the overcrowding in hospitals, with a rise in patients admitted during flu season.

“[A patient care assistant] might be helping a patient change diapers, while another patient asks for water. It is hard to handle it all at once,” said Ng Wai-ling, a patient care assistant and chairwoman of the Hospital Authority Supporting Grades Staff Association, an affiliate of the Medical and Health Care Staff general Union.

The number of patients per ward has been much higher than during other times of the year, when there would normally be around 30 to 40 patients to administer to, Ng told a radio show on Wednesday.

While there were slightly more staff during the daytime, with four assistants and four or five nurses per ward, Ng said it was still insufficient for tending patients.

Ng was among some 40 people who on Wednesday marched from Admiralty Centre to government headquarters, where they submitted a petition to the Food and Health Bureau.

While part-time staff have been hired to help relieve the manpower pressure during flu season, Ng said this did not help much at all.

“Those part-time staff do not know much about the operations of a ward,” she said. “We have to teach them to do the job.”

She said more full-time assistants should be hired in the long run to help cover the services.

The overall medical manpower shortage has been a concern during the winter flu season when many more patients require care.

This month, nurses have held a protest and doctors organised a forum, both appealing for extra manpower for the season.

In a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday, the Chief Executive was asked by Liberal Party leader Felix Chung Kwok-pan if relaxing the requirements for Hong Kong doctors trained overseas to work in local public hospitals would be a way of solving the shortage of doctors.

But Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said it was not a good time to discuss the matter, as the medical sector was already overstretched by flu season.

“I am afraid that if we decide to allow doctors, who graduated or were registered elsewhere, to come to Hong Kong, another round of controversy would be created,” she said.

Lam, who took the opportunity to express her “heartfelt gratitude” to frontline medical staff in public hospitals, agreed the problems of the city’s medical system could not be solved within days.

The government has been consulting the opinions of lawmakers on how to improve it, she added.

Since the start of the flu season in late December, 234 adults and 17 children have ben stricken by severe flu. Of them, 109 adults and one child have died.

Hospital Authority statistics showed that 1,080 patients were admitted to hospitals through emergency departments on Tuesday. The overall occupancy rate of public medical wards was 108 per cent, with United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong the highest, at 122 per cent.


Category: Hong Kong

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