SCATHING and repeated attacks on doctors have left many in the medical profession jaded and lacking enthusiasm to continue practising. Doctors who talked to the Sunday Morning Post said the almost 'non-stop' barrage of criticism against the profession, mostly sparked by the Harvard report on health-care reform, was depressing. But they have nowhere to turn for help and instead have to 'swallow' their anger. The Harvard report, commissioned by the Government to outline ways to maintain and improve the public health system, reported a lack of quality checks among local doctors and also unprofessional practices such as abuse of antibiotics and short consultations for high charges. Some doctors, fed up with being blamed, have chosen early retirement while others have been forced to quit amid significant drops in patient attendance. One doctor, a specialist in medicine who has been practising for more than 20 years in Hong Kong, said the Harvard report had seriously affected doctors' image and morale. Some complaints against doctors were based on misunderstandings. 'Some diagnosis is difficult, doctors understand it but patients don't. They expect doctors to make an instant diagnosis in every situation but it is impossible. 'Patients nowadays are more educated, they are more demanding than before. Ten years ago, patients just followed doctors' instructions to take drugs, now they will keep asking if they need a CT-scan or an operation.' The doctor said his income had halved over the past few years as public hospitals had wooed patients away from the private sector. 'I have not raised my consultation fee for two years, but drug costs are increasing,' he said. 'I have a patient who is rich, but he always sends his driver to the public clinics for cheap drugs.' He also said some of his colleagues in the profession had retired earlier than planned. 'They chose to retire earlier because they have enough money for a good life and they don't want to take the blame anymore.' Dr Lai Kang-yiu, president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors' Association, said patients had become demanding. Dr Lai, a consultant at Queen Elizabeth Hospital's intensive care unit, said an elderly woman patient kept on asking him the same set of questions. The woman, who has an abdominal tumour, would not undergo a test. 'She always comes with several family members. She puts down 10 questions on a piece of paper and asks me those questions every time.' He said the Government should set limits for medical care so patients would not have unrealistic expectations. Dr Li Sum-wo, a Wong Tai Sin general practitioner, said he believed some people had been deliberately 'badmouthing' doctors. 'We do welcome the reforms. Many people think doctors are conservative, it is absolutely wrong. 'However, there is so much unfair comment, some people are trying to make a fuss, it is tragic.' The Harvard report criticised local doctors for often not prescribing a full course of antibiotics but asking patients to come back, which could lead to growing resistance to the drugs if patients did not return or finish the course. But Dr Li said that doctors wanted to monitor patients' reaction to the drugs. 'In the United States, it is inconvenient for patients to see doctors as it is a great distance from town to town. But Hong Kong is a small place, it is much easier for patients to have follow-up consultation.' However, Dr Li said he was touched to receive a wedding banquet invitation from a patient he had delivered as a baby more than 20 years ago. 'He said I was the one who brought him in to this world, he has to thank me by inviting me to his wedding. What he said really touched my heart.'