Win for doctors over days off

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2012, 12:00am


Three former public doctors are together expected to receive about HK$2.5 million in compensation for working on rest days and holidays after the High Court set down principles yesterday on how calculations were to be made.

The ruling came in a case brought by medical sector lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau, specialist surgeon Dr Choi Chi-yee and general practitioner Dr So Yung-pak, who between them claimed compensation for 600 rest days and holidays.

Legal action started in 2002 when 165 doctors brought claims against the Hospital Authority at the Labour Tribunal. Many litigants have left the case for various reasons.

In 2009, the Court of Final Appeal ruled that public doctors were not entitled to compensation for working overtime but should be compensated for rest days and holidays.

Leung, Choi and So sought HK$2 million, HK$1 million and HK$100,000 respectively. Based on the principles laid out yesterday, Leung said he expected to receive HK$1.7 million. Leung said the other claimants, around 50 and 100, would each receive between HK$700,000 and HK$200,000 - the respective amounts awarded to So and Choi.

Mr Justice Anselmo Reyes ordered the Hospital Authority to pay the doctors 70 per cent of their legal costs after their lawyer failed to convince the court to give them 90 per cent. The authority had asked that no costs be charged because the lawsuit was brought to establish principles for calculation.

Leung said outside court: 'The compensation I'll receive is not enough to cover my legal costs.'

He criticised the authority for taking another three years to come to an agreement on how the damages should be calculated after the top court gave the final determination.

The doctors will submit a final calculation also agreed by the Hospital Authority to the court, which will then give effect to it. Details of the order will not be available to the public.

The Hospital Authority will have a month to pay the sums.

Ruling on the calculation principles, Reyes said that when doctors attended wards on Sundays or holidays when such duty was not on the roster they should be compensated.

The judge ruled that Sunday - when doctors should be off - meant from midnight to midnight. Since doctors' Saturday shifts usually ended at 9am on Sunday, that meant they did not get a 24-hour rest by the time Monday arrived.

In the top court's 2009 ruling, Mr Justice Roberto Ribeiro rejected claims from 100 public doctors for overtime payments and ruled that they had no contractual entitlement outside their 44-hour week.

After that ruling, the authority offered a HK$629 million settlement to 4,600 doctors. However, 100 refused and decided to fight the case.