Hospitals risk loss of women doctors

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 October, 2007, 12:00am

Authority urged to provide more part-time work for female practitioners

Public hospitals are losing experienced women doctors, who put family life before work, the Hong Kong Women Doctors' Association warned yesterday.

It urged the Hospital Authority to promote part-time work arrangements for female practitioners after a survey by the group found that about 90 per cent wanted flexible working hours and part-time options.

Of 304 frontline doctors at public hospitals the Health Department interviewed in June, about 80 per cent said doctors should have the option to decide the amount of on-call duties.

About 70 per cent said their working hours were too long and another 70 per cent said they worked for 56 to over 75 hours a week. Half the respondents were men.

The association's president, Cissy Yu, said part-time arrangements were important for women doctors.

'Though our poll did not study how many female doctors have quit recently because of family reasons, we have encountered many cases among our friends and colleagues.

'Many experienced and well-trained female doctors have left for private hospitals where part-time arrangements are more popular. Some just leave the profession and become housewives.

'It is a great loss to Hong Kong's medical profession.'

Of 11,739 registered doctors in Hong Kong, 3,114 are women. Dr Yu estimates that the number of women doctors will grow to 50 per cent in the near future.

'Many women doctors are getting married and giving birth at a later age, as they are too occupied with their work. We hope the concept of working part-time can be a mainstream policy so that more female doctors can benefit from it instead of quitting their jobs and becoming housewives.'

Mabel Wong Siu-chun, a doctor and mother of two boys, has benefited from working part-time.

The 36-year-old switched to part-time in April last year and now alternates between working a month and taking a month off. 'I felt very frustrated when I worked full-time, as I was busy taking care of other people's children and had no time for my own son.

'It was even worse when my son fell sick and I could only ask my domestic helper to take care of him.

'One of my colleagues wanted to resign last year, and we came up with this job-sharing arrangement so that we both can work as part-timers. It was very tough when we had to work full-time when carrying babies and having children to take care of.'

Dr Wong said a new doctor was hired after she and her colleague went part-time to ensure there was enough manpower.

Shane Solomon, chief executive of the Hospital Authority, said HK$11 million would be spent on studying how to shorten doctors' working days by reviewing the arrangements for overnight on-call duties and examining the possibility of shifting some tasks to other medical workers.

But he did not think the new plan would require the authority to hire large numbers of doctors.

Ward weary

Of 304 doctors interviewed recently, the proportion who worked more than 75 hours a week was: 11.3%