The outgoing head of the Hospital Authority is confident public doctors planning to take their case to the Labour Tribunal will end up accepting the authority's compensation package for their on-call duty.
Shane Solomon said the authority would send letters to more than 4,000 doctors in the third week of this month and allow them four weeks to consider whether to accept the compensation offer. He believed the 300 public doctors planning to go to the tribunal would change their mind once they knew the amount they would receive. He was confident the majority of doctors would accept the settlement offer, considering 93 per cent of public doctors accepted the previous settlement in 2006. The Court of Final Appeal ruled in October that doctors were entitled to a day off or a full day's pay for being on call on public holidays or days off, even though they might not receive any phone calls or need to work. Following the ruling, the authority commissioned a consultant to work out a settlement offer and to come up with figures. The authority earlier estimated the compensation cost at more than HK$300 million.
The court held that a doctor was deprived of a rest day when he was on non-resident on-call duty as he had to be close enough to the hospital to get there within 30 minutes, could not drink alcohol and had to be ready to respond to calls. But it rejected doctors' claims for pay or time off for working overtime. Besides compensation for overtime work and on-call duty, long working hours had been an issue heatedly debated between public doctors and the authority. Solomon said working conditions had improved.
The authority announced earlier that only 4.8 per cent of public hospital doctors worked more than 65 hours a week in December, compared with 18 per cent in September 2006. The percentage who worked more than 70 hours a week has dropped from 10 per cent to 1 per cent over the same period.
In the loop
The Hospital Authority will send out letters detailing its offer later this month
The number of public doctors who will be sent the letters: 4,000
The number of weeks they will have to reply to the offer: 4