Shortage of specialist doctors in new field
Only 11 doctors specialising in rheumatic disease are working in public hospitals because of a severe shortage of trained staff.
The Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology says there is a lack of specialists because rheumatology is still a relatively new medical specialty in Hong Kong.
Dr Lau Chak-sing, president of the society, said: 'Only 11 accredited physicians in the field work in public institutions.
'Unfortunately, rheumatology is a relatively new medical sub-speciality in Hong Kong. There is a severe shortage of trained personnel to care for all rheumatic patients.' He estimated there were about 18,000 patients with rheumatoid arthritis alone and rheumatic disease also included chronic back pain, osteoarthritis and gout.
Dr Emily Kun Wai-lin, secretary of the Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology, said that there should be at least one fully trained doctor specialising in rheumatology in each general hospital.
'There may be a shortage of such staff in public hospitals because it may not be perceived by the Hospital Authority as an immediately life-threatening disease,' she said.
But Hospital Authority officials said that patients with rheumatic diseases could be treated adequately by other doctors.
A spokesman said: 'Regarding the 11 accredited physicians trained in rheumatology, currently Hong Kong is only starting to move into specialist practice with the setting up of a specialist register by the Hong Kong Medical Council.'