More frontline healthcare workers should be recruited to cut treatment waiting times, a new survey shows. More than 60 per cent of about 2,100 household respondents chose to 'increase frontline healthcare providers to reduce waiting time' against 38.3 per cent who wanted to 'increase senior practitioners to improve service quality'. 'This is a very important finding,' said research team member Dr Law Chi-kwong. 'We've got to have the priorities right. The group most influential in making policies is the medical professionals. 'The general public have no say. 'Graduating medical staff cannot find jobs, but just look at the waiting times we have.' The questionnaire carried out by the health policy research team of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service received 2,131 responses from 7,000 sent out. Professor Cecilia Chan Lai-wan, head of the social work and social administration department at the University of Hong Kong, said: 'When the Hospital Authority was first established in 1991, there were 80 consultant doctors. Now there are more than 200. 'It costs $2.5 million per year for one consultant doctor, enough to pay for 10 nurses . . . or five starting doctors. The allocation of doctors is inequitable.' Professor Chan said the average waiting time for the first outpatient consultation was 20 weeks, and up to a year for eye consultations, followed by another wait before the operation. 'Respondents were generally frustrated at the long waiting times and general absurdity of the system,' she said. A high proportion of respondents supported free medical services or nominal fees for the elderly, disabled or chronically ill.