HOSPITAL Authority staff deserve good pay. Patients understand that and taxpayers generally understand it too. But that does not mean the public health system should enjoy unreasonable perks. The new Director of Audit, Dominic Chan Yin-tat, has pointed up what he considers excessively generous housing allowances and terms which, in other government funded agencies, would be considered abuses. It is hard to argue that doctors, or anyone else, deserve allowances to cover expenses already covered by their spouse's employer - although the terms should be flexible enough to permit the allowances to be paid if the spouse's circumstances change. Nor is it right that doctors should be given more generous housing allowances than other public servants, as Mr Chan says they have been. A doctor does not require better or more expensive housing than a lawyer or an engineer. The Hospital Authority has yet to produce the counter-figures it says will show its staff will not be costing more over the long term than civil servants. But nobody is denying that the Authority's housing package was beefed up precisely in order to attract doctors away from the old civil-service terms. The doctors had the Government over a barrel at the time - without their agreement there would have been no Hospital Authority - and the administration now finds itself trying to defend a package which at the time it knew was over-generous. That situation is no longer tenable. It is unfortunate the Government is contractually bound to terms it knows are wasteful and unfair. It is also unfortunate that to put the situation right by refusing similar terms to new recruits would create dissension within the health system and other departments. Doctors also know two housing allowances within the same family are unconscionable. The Government should attempt to renegotiate these obligations and doctors should be ready to come to terms before the row does drive a wedge between doctors and patients as medical staff fear.