Authority insists doctors' on-call payouts are fair

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 June, 2010, 12:00am

The Hospital Authority said its compensation offer to 4,000 public doctors for being on call on holidays was fair and had undergone thorough consultation, estimating the package would cost HK$250 million.

'We have listened to the opinions from all levels of staff. This is a reasonable package we came up with,' authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk said.

His announcement came a day after the Post reported that public doctors would be offered cash for being on call on days off or public holidays.

This was a response to a Court of Final Appeal ruling in October that on-call doctors were entitled to a day off because they were deprived of a rest day, as they needed to be within 30 minutes' reach of the hospital and could not drink alcohol.

Under the package, consultant doctors and senior medical officers are offered HK$95,000, while medical officers are offered HK$10,000 to HK$34,000 according to their specialities and experience.

For example, entry-level accident and emergency, ear, nose and throat, eye, radiology and pathology specialists are offered HK$18,000, whereas those in other specialties are offered HK$10,000.

Wu said it was a fair offer as an authority survey showed that consultant doctors were more frequently placed on the on-call list.

'On average, consultants have an off-site call every five days, while junior doctors have off-site calls every 26 days,' he said, adding that senior doctors were also offered more because their salaries were higher.

Authority chief executive Shane Solomon said the settlement should be considered along with a 2006 settlement, which offered doctors compensation for working on days off. Junior doctors were then offered a maximum of HK$222,000. 'If we put the two together, junior doctors are being paid more,' he said.

A letter was sent to doctors yesterday explaining the package, and individual offers will be made in August. They will have one month to consider whether to accept the offer.

Solomon said those who rejected the offer could choose to seek help from the Labour Tribunal, but he hoped staff would accept.

Wu said the authority would need to pay the compensation, which would total HK$250 million, from its own pocket and he expected it to run a deficit in the coming financial year.

But he said normal medical services would not be affected by the need to pay compensation.

At the time of Tuesday's staff meeting, the lowest amount of compensation offered to junior doctors was HK$8,000, but it was increased to HK$10,000 in the official announcement yesterday.

Public Doctors' Association president Dr Ho Pak-leung said 'the authority should be glad if half of the doctors take the offer'. He said the package was unfair as it offered compensation according to seniority, instead of actual on-call days. He said he expected some doctors would take the case to the Labour Tribunal.

Frontline Doctors' Union vice-chairman Dr Seamus Siu Yuk-leung agreed the offer was unfair, but estimated more than 90 per cent of doctors would take it, as he believed 'authority employees are not radical'.

He said junior doctors should be offered more, as their workload was no different from consultants and senior medical officers.

On the table

The proportion of public doctors expected to accept the Hospital Authority's settlement offer: 90%