Little incentive for graduates, say practitioners

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 August, 2007, 12:00am

Chinese medicine graduates face unclear career prospects and poor wages in Hospital Authority clinics, Chinese medical practitioners say.

Daniel Wong Chi-ming, who graduated from Baptist University four years ago, supported the authority's plans to set up more Chinese medicine wards as it would provide jobs for the around 100 students of Chinese medicine who graduate from three universities every year. However, he said the salaries offered deterred fresh graduates from working in public clinics.

'Wages for Chinese medicine practitioners, who have worked in the authority's clinics for four or five years, are much lower than those of freshly graduated nurses,' said Mr Wong, who works at an authority-funded Chinese medicine clinic.

Though Chinese medicine students study for five years, the same as students of western medicine, they earn about one-third of their western medicine counterparts.

Mr Wong said he chose to stay at the clinic because he enjoyed curing people. He also said Chinese medicine was better at treating chronic illnesses, while acupuncture and other treatments could improve the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses.

'However, the pressure does drive me to consider leaving,' Mr Wong said.

Chinese medicine practitioner Steve Wong Chi-chuen, who now works at a private clinic, said he had worked at an authority-funded Chinese medicine clinic but his contract only lasted for one year and he was forced to leave.

'At that time, I was quite worried about losing my job. But once I started working at a private clinic, I realised that leaving was a better option,' he said. 'I'm glad the authority did not continue my contract.'

Steve Wong also said fresh graduate were mostly assigned to administrative work, rather than working with patients.

He said most of the clinical work was performed by professors or senior doctors and that patients considered junior doctors to be less capable.

Monica Wong Yuk-wo, another Chinese medicine graduate, said she started her career in the private sector, because of the low salaries offered by the Hospital Authority. She is now looking for work overseas.