30 threaten court action claiming their lives were risked by inadequate gear About 30 nurses who were infected with Sars are threatening to sue the Hospital Authority, saying their lives were needlessly put at risk by the way it handled the outbreak. A union leader said the nurses, who all work at public hospitals, have indicated they would sue the authority for risking their lives by providing them with inadequate protective gear. Joseph Lee Kok-lung, chairman of the 19,500-strong Association of Hong Kong Nursing staff, said yesterday that the 30 were among 240 nurses who fell ill during the outbreak. Mr Lee said the nurses indicated their willingness to sue the authority for 'inadequate protective equipment' and their cases were now being reviewed by the union's legal adviser. One of the 240 nurses, Lau Wing-kai - who helped doctor Joanna Tse Yuen-man insert a tube into a Sars patient at Tuen Mun Hospital - died. Dr Tse and Mr Lau were among six public health-care workers and two private doctors who died during the outbreak. Mr Lee said: 'We sent letters to our members inviting them to submit their incident records to us for legal review two to three months ago.' The association's lawyer was considering whether a lawsuit based on a few individuals or on a collective basis could be filed. 'The advice that we got so far is that the nurses who got infected due to insufficient personal protection equipment might have a better chance at exploring their legal claims,' Mr Lee said. The association also conducted an opinion survey from July to August that asked members how they rated the Hospital Authority and the Department of Health's performance in handling the Sars outbreak. A total of 389 nurses replied to the survey, of whom 98 per cent agreed that the authority's policy on nursing staff deployment was somewhat disorganised, while 95 per cent said the authority's management confused frontline staff. 'Different hospital clusters operated on their own. They were directionless, making frontline staff confused on how to deal with Sars,' Mr Lee said. Ninety per cent of respondents said they received no 'standard policy' on what protective gear they should wear, and the same number agreed that there was an inadequate supply of masks, gloves, gowns and other equipment. 'On communication between staff and management, 85 per cent said there were inadequate channels,' Mr Lee said. The respondents had suggested that a formal channel of communication with workers be established. 'In conclusion, the survey found that 90 per cent of staff were dissatisfied with the performance of the [authority] and Department of Health in terms of how they managed the Sars outbreak,' he said. 'The [authority] should formulate a clear and appropriate nursing resource policy to support staff deployment in times of outbreaks of infectious diseases.' The legal threat by the nurses comes ahead of tomorrow's release of the Sars expert committee report on the handling of the outbreak. The report is not expected to lay the blame on specific government or Hospital Authority officials.