Recognition for a lifetime of serving the public
The workload is heavy and the frustrations are many, but the satisfactions of helping patients outweighs everything else, says the outgoing chief of the medicine and geriatrics department at Princess Margaret Hospital.
Dr Matthew Tong Kwok-lung (pictured), who will retire next year after more than 33 years at the hospital in Kwai Chung, was one of seven recipients of this year's Outstanding Staff and Teams Award, presented yesterday by the Hospital Authority.
Tong manages a departmental staff of 80 who treat about half of all the hospital's patients.
The award recognises his leadership during his past 11 years of service as well as his significant role in introducing home dialysis in 2006 for public hospital kidney patients.
His staff members are known for their loyalty.
'People stay because we give them many training opportunities,' Tong said. Senior doctors in his department train the juniors intensively for their pre-specialisation exam, with extensive bedside teaching. Juniors are moved around different specialisms during their three-year training period. 'I believe in hands-on leadership to set an example as a role model,' he said.
He has been upset by the decline in patients' trust in doctors and increasing complaints in recent years. 'Sometimes I couldn't sleep after reading complaint letters,' he said.
He hopes the public can understand that the occasional mistake is inevitable during procedures.
'Most doctors don't have bad intentions. We have studied hard to become doctors so we can help people,' he said.
Some patients doubt doctors' decisions even before treatment begins, which can affect the quality of treatment and the medical team's morale, he added.
Despite the higher pay in private practice, Tong said he had always wanted to work in the public sector. 'It's my mission to serve the general public. Many doctors have this mission, too, but some get frustrated with the system. Manpower is tight, and sometimes they feel they cannot help patients to the full extent. It gets into a vicious cycle when more [doctors leave the public sector].'
Manpower will remain tight over the next two years, he warns. 'Doctors and nurses need to stay tough and put aside their own comforts. Just think of how satisfying it is when patients thank you,' he said.