One full-time doctor must look after more than 200 severely disabled and frail patients at a public hospital as a result of budget cuts by the Hospital Authority. To alleviate the severe manpower shortage at the Shatin Cheshire Home, its chief executive remains on call when his colleague is off duty, according to Alan Crawley, the new chairman of the hospital's governing committee. Mr Crawley said he was also outraged by the Hospital Authority's decision last year to cut 50 of the home's 300 beds at a time when more than 4,000 patients on a central waiting list faced an average wait of 32 months for a bed. In addition, the number of full-time doctors at Shatin Cheshire Home was cut from two to one last year, as the authority arranged for a consultant geriatrician from Shatin Hospital to work part-time at the home. Last month, Shatin Hospital complained about a shortage of beds. It said 7 per cent of the beds were occupied by patients who should be discharged, but their families insisted on keeping them in the hospital. Mr Crawley described the home as an orphan abandoned by the Hospital Authority. In its reply to the South China Morning Post, the Hospital Authority strongly denied any unfair treatment to Shatin Cheshire Home or to patients who are in infirmary care. But the authority said that until its finances improved its focus would remain on emergency patients and those who required specialised expertise and technology. 'At this point in time, we cannot make unrealistic promises of utilising vacant premises when the necessary manpower is simply not there,' it said. Shatin Cheshire Home, built 15 years ago at a cost of $82 million, has 296 beds. 'The doctor from Shatin Hospital comes only twice a week to visit for only about an hour. In the case of an emergency, the doctor usually would simply ask our nurses to send the patients to the Prince of Wales Hospital's accident and emergency unit,' he said. Mr Crawley said nurses were hesitant to call the doctor outside office hours. The arrangement is unfair to the nurses. Nurses are not supposed to make major clinical decisions,' he said. The new chairman, who took up his post on April 1, also complained that the authority had taken away $2 million worth of equipment last year and replaced it with $500,000 worth of equipment as part of a 'restructuring of services'. Mr Crawley said the cuts had been 'to the bone', forcing him to speak out in a bid to avoid the further undermining of patient care.