Medical students and housemen appear to have a case when they complain that the Hospital Authority is not being open about its employment policy. Housemen say they are under stress because of the number of patients they care for. They accuse the authority of irresponsibility in claiming that there are not enough vacancies for them. Of 260 junior doctors who finished housemanship in June, just over a quarter have received permanent job offers from hospitals. The housemen quote data which sets the patient ratio here at 703 per doctor, the third highest among developed countries. They argue that this is too great a caseload, though the view of senior colleagues is that the figure is quite acceptable. If it is hard to assess which point of view is correct, this is in part because the facts are hard to establish. So many statistics are being bandied about over the doctor-patient ratio that a thorough survey of the profession is called for. The functional constituency legislator, Dr Leong Che-hung, quotes 1-800 as the accurate figure and maintains that is the right balance. He says that having too many doctors would affect standards, though it is difficult to see why a lesser workload would lead to poorer service for patients. More likely, the reverse would apply. The figure quoted by the Public Doctors' Association is 1-700. It also supports a cut in the number of doctors. The Academy of Medicine says the figure is 1-780, which it approves, but warns in the same breath that there are not enough general practitioners. Its worry is that, despite pleas stretching back to 1990, the authorities have done nothing about family health care. While this internal wrangling continues, the public can only wonder why the profession is divided over such basic questions. If hospital doctors here have responsibility for a greater number of patients than in every other country in the developed world bar two, can there really be a danger of over-supply? The Government seems to think so. It has directed the University Grants Committee to see whether student intake should be cut. Unless this is based on reliable statistics, it would seem to be doing things the wrong way round. We need to know exactly how many hospital patients there are to each doctor. It should then be possible to establish a generally agreed ratio which does not impose intolerable strain on housemen. Before any student cutback, those figures should be weighed against population predictions and the demand which will be created as mainland children begin to arrive. If hospitals risk becoming overstaffed, though that seems highly questionable, one thing is certain: there will be no lack of work for family doctors in the coming decade.