Doctors at public hospitals are being offered fast-track promotions and extra cash for emergency ward duty to stop their exodus to the private sector.
To combat the brain drain, the Hospital Authority is now allowing doctors who have worked in a public hospital for at least five years to qualify for promotion to associate consultant, according to Dr Derrick Au Kit-sing, the authority's head of human resources.
"Private hospitals are most interested in recruiting middle-level public hospital doctors who have many years of experience and training but have not yet become consultants," added Au.
The authority also aims to give doctors an added incentive to work on the emergency wards by raising their monthly remuneration.
"Doctors in the emergency ward don't work as long hours as other specialist doctors but their workload is actually more intensely packed," said Au. "We therefore raised their monthly remuneration to be consistent with other specialists - a total of HK$4,750."
"A doctor in the A&E ward told me that the change is encouraging, and it's not about the money; they feel that their hard work is appreciated."
The emergency ward, along with paediatrics and anaesthesiology, are the areas worst hit by the exodus of doctors in Hong Kong's 41 public hospitals, said Au.
Last year, the authority also changed the rules to try to ensure fresh medical school graduates were trained in one of the specialities of their choice.
The central allocation system will now always assign graduates according to their top three preferences.
Au said that in the past, some graduates never took up training positions because they could not get into any of the specialities of their choice.
From April 2011 to March this year, the authority lost 7.3 per cent, or 44, of its doctors.
In the last two months, five doctors have quit - three of whom worked in public hospitals in New Territories East, where the shortage of doctors is most severe.