The few who do find employment are forced to work for a meagre wage Psychiatric outpatients hoping to return to work have problems finding a job, and if they do, the pay is usually very low. Tim Pang Hung-cheong, of the Society for Community Organisation, said welfare groups had a battle securing reasonable pay from prospective employers. 'These organisations can only find jobs for them by bidding for contracted-out work, which is usually awarded on the principle of the lowest bidder wins,' he said. As an example of the poor pay, outpatients working as cleaners at bus stations were paid as little as HK$12 per hour. 'The government should introduce more economic incentives to encourage companies to employ more psychiatric patients. It should award contracted-out work to a company that agrees to recruit a certain percentage of patients for its workforce, even if its tender is not the lowest,' said Mr Pang. 'This would help a great deal.' He questioned whether welfare organisations were really helping patients by finding them jobs with low pay. 'Can these low-paid jobs improve their quality of life? How can they live a new life, make their own living and get on to the road to recovery under such circumstances? 'The salaries are so low and they lack incentives. Also, if psychiatric patients do get good money from their jobs, the government is likely to reduce their Comprehensive Social Security Assistance allowances. The patients are trapped with no way out,' Mr Pang said. Medical sector lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said Hong Kong offered very little help to psychiatric patients. 'We do not have enough doctors, we do not have enough support in the community, and we do not have enough jobs so patients can be rehabilitated,' he said. In 2005, 605,000 outpatients visited psychiatric units at government hospitals, up 40 per cent from 2000. The number of inpatients rose from 12,000 to 15,000. 'However, there are 258 psychiatric doctors now compared to 212 in 2005,' Dr Kwok said. He felt the government was doing a poor job helping psychiatric patients regain control of their lives. 'The government has done very little. In many foreign countries, some companies have an obligation to recruit a certain percentage of staff with disabilities or mental problems. This is not the case in Hong Kong. That should be changed,' he said. 'The government does not have an incentive scheme. And worse still, many of the jobs the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and Hospital Authority contract out are awarded on the principle of the lowest bidder wins,' Dr Kwok added. 'The government should make many of these jobs available to psychiatric patients.' A motion debate on helping psychiatric patients reintegrate into society will be discussed in the Legislative Council on Wednesday.