Discontent over new contracts for doctors

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am

Frontline doctors complain they have been forced to sign new contracts that do not stipulate working hours.

Medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki said he was shocked to learn from the Frontline Doctors' Union that the new contract, which covered more than 300 doctors, 'did not specifically mention their working hours'.

'What is worse is the contract specifically states that frontline doctors cannot ask for compensation for overtime and cannot ask for time off if they work overtime,' said Dr Kwok, who is on the Hospital Authority board.

The development follows the Court of First Instance ruling on March 1 in a case brought by 165 public doctors for compensation for time worked on rest days and statutory holidays from 1996 to 2002. The court ruled public doctors could not expect compensation from the Hospital Authority for overtime.

None of the doctors who claim they had to sign the new contract attended the briefing. Dr Kwok said members of the union did not dare show their faces for fear of retribution.

'There has been widespread discontent at the revised contract terms,' he said. Many doctors were only given a few hours' notice of the need to sign the new contract and had little time to consider its terms.

A spokesman for the Hospital Authority said: 'The standard appointment letter for doctors was changed in May this year to take into account [the authority's] decision to reintroduce annual pay increments for doctors, as well as the High Court's judgment in March.'

The change was aimed at removing ambiguity about working hours, the spokesman said.

The authority has offered the doctors affected by the ruling $629 million compensation for non-payment for their work on statutory and public holidays and rest days between January 2000 and December last year.