Leaving a place where one has worked for 29 years is always a bold move. Chu Kin-wah, a former public hospital doctor, says his decision to switch to private practice has helped him build better relations with his patients. The former consultant surgeon at Queen Mary Hospital has experienced the heavy burden of the public health-care sector. 'Doctors and nurses at public hospitals have to take care of lots of patients. We can't spend much time on each of them. Now I am in private practice, I can spend more time on my patients and have a better relationship with them.' Dr Chu switched to private practice this month. Leading a team of seven doctors in his previous post, Dr Chu frequently had to attend work meetings, take care of administrative work and teach students. 'I wanted to give myself a new working environment. Although I work longer hours now, I feel less stressed.' Dr Chu was also the former president of the Public Doctors Association, a doctors' union. He says morale among frontline doctors at public hospitals has been deteriorating for some time and that a number of his former colleagues also want to switch. 'The pressure on frontline doctors is very high. Public patients expect the same standards as the private sector,' he says. 'Many young doctors are pessimistic about their future at public hospitals. They worry they will gradually suffer from the cost-cutting trend within the government - there will be fewer resources and promotion prospects. Dr Chu does not agree with criticism that the Hospital Authority is spending too much on consultant doctors, who make about $200,000 a month including allowances. 'A consultant doctor has 20 or 30 years' experience; I think it is a reasonable price. Doctors hired by the authority have no pension; all benefits are counted in cash.' For the past four years, Dr Chu has also been a member of the Hospital Authority's committee to improve co-operation between public and private health-care sectors. 'The public hospitals in Hong Kong take care of more than 90 per cent of all inpatients - it's a very unhealthy situation. ... We should find ways to make a better balance.' He admits the project undertaken by the committee has failed. About three years ago, the committee prepared a booklet listing more than 1,000 private doctors. The booklets were left in public outpatient clinics as a reference for patients considering private care. 'But then we found that listing more than 1,000 private doctors in a book isn't helpful. Patients don't know who is good and whose services fit their conditions. 'There should be more liaison between public and private doctors. For example, a public doctor should be able to directly refer a patient to a private doctor. Dr Chu also wants the Medical Council to relax doctors' advertising rules. 'Doctors should be allowed to advertise more about their qualifications and experience - this is important information for patients.'