Health chief sorry for calling public doctors petty-minded

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 March, 2011, 12:00am

Health chief Dr York Chow Yat-ngok has offered a qualified apology to public doctors after he called them 'petty-minded' for asking for standard working hours.

Chow's attempt to cool the situation, however, was rejected by medics and lawmakers yesterday. One said he was just 'playing with words'.

The secretary for food and health said of his comment, made on March 19: 'I am willing to apologise if my words have affected some doctors' self-esteem or passion for the profession.'

Chow called the doctors 'petty-minded' while seeking to persuade their unions to accept a HK$172 million Hospital Authority package of measures designed to reduce the number of medics quitting public hospitals.

These include new arrangements concerning the doctors' workloads and their promotion prospects, another bugbear for medics.

'Over the week, I received phone calls from some doctors agreeing with what I had said but they think my comment may have upset some young doctors, who feel I lack respect for them,' Chow (pictured) said.

Still, he said his comment was not without reason. 'Under many circumstances patients require round-the-clock care from the doctors. Many professional doctors would not care what time they go off duty,' he said.

Medical sector legislator Dr Leung Ka-lau lambasted the health chief.

'His apology is merely a piece of rhetorical skill. The current package can only bring short-term benefits,' said Leung, an adviser to an action group on doctors' standard working hours.

'As the chief official for health, his words implied he thinks the current proposal has no room for further improvement.'

A spokesman for the action group, Dr Terence Yuen Man-ho, said the problems doctors raised had not been solved.

'We are not only asking for Chow's apology, we are also fighting for reasonable work hours, which directly affect staff morale and service quality,' Yuen said.

'If Chow is sincere in his apology, we hope he is sincere too in listening to the views of the doctors.'

He said the group's next step would depend on the findings of its own survey of what staff think of the authority's proposals.