It aims to establish better sharing of information in case of a fresh outbreak A contingency plan for public and private health-care sectors to work together in fighting Sars was hammered out this month, after the government's expert report called for better co-operation between the two sectors. Under the scheme, private hospitals and doctors will immediately notify their nearest regional public hospitals if they come across suspected Sars patients, while the Department of Health will carry out contact tracing. Private hospitals can choose either to send the suspected Sars patients to public hospitals or continue to treat them in isolation until laboratory tests are completed. Legislator Lo Wing-lok, president of the Medical Association, recently met health officials and representatives of 12 private hospitals. He said later he was convinced that there would be better sharing of information between the public and private sectors on Sars. Dr Lo said many private doctors and hospitals had shown their willingness to help during the Sars outbreak, which first appeared in March. However, they failed to receive proper support from their public counterparts, and could not function to the fullest extent. 'For a long time, the authority has treated its private counterparts as unwanted rivals. It should be time for it to knock down the barriers and join hands with private hospitals and doctors to fight Sars and other diseases,' he said. During the Sars outbreak, the Medical Association launched a volunteer programme for private doctors to conduct free surgery for public hospital patients to ease the Health Authority's workload. Thirty-one doctors joined but only one operation was carried out. Turning long-standing rivalry into co-operation between the Hospital Authority and private hospitals is believed to be the key in controlling community outbreaks. In its report, the Sars expert committee said private hospitals and doctors were not sufficiently engaged during the outbreak. 'The grievance expressed by the private sector against the Hospital Authority is a reflection of a long-standing problem regarding the structure and emphasis of the current health-care system,' it said. 'The committee heard allegations that the Hospital Authority was reluctant to transfer patients to the private sector for fear of losing patients.'