Only 24 private doctors have applied for part-time jobs in public hospitals - far below a target set by the Hospital Authority, which hoped to attract 112 in its latest recruitment campaign. The authority has been urged to improve learning and training opportunities for private doctors to motivate them to spare time for public services. There are 88 part-time doctors working for the authority, accounting for about 2 per cent of doctors in public hospitals. Ching Wai-kuen, a chief manager of the authority, said it expanded the part-time employment scheme because the turnover rate for doctors had risen from 2.9 per cent in 2002 to 6.7 per cent last year. The authority also planned to cut full-time doctors' working hours. 'We have projected that we will need over 400 doctors this year, but can only recruit about 300 full-time doctors, mostly new graduates. Therefore, about 200 part-time doctors are needed,' Dr Ching said. 'We hope to increase co-operation and knowledge exchange between the public and private sectors at the same time.' To further attract private doctors to public hospitals, the authority has promised applicants more leeway to set hourly rates according to their experience and specialties. Part-time doctors will also get contract-completion gratuities and benefits like their full-time colleagues, such as paid annual leave, sick leave and medical benefits, if they work 18 hours or more a week. But Dr Ching admitted the money on offer to part-time doctors - from HK$260 to around HK$800 per hour - was not very attractive. 'We know we can't put the focus on the pay because it definitely cannot be compared with market rates. But we believe that the more complicated cases in public hospitals and the team environment can attract some private doctors' interest.' Dr Ching said the authority had no time limit on recruiting part-timers, but it would step up the promotion, such as by publishing recruitment ads in newspapers and Medical Association newsletters. To prevent private doctors from generating business for themselves, they will be forbidden to disclose details of their private practice to public patients, Dr Ching said. Chu Kin-wah, a private surgeon who left Queen Mary Hospital about three years ago, said he was interested in part-time work at public hospitals to treat patients and train younger doctors. But he doubted the authority could guarantee a good learning environment for part-time doctors. 'The authority should showcase how the part-time doctors can participate in the training system in public hospitals,' Dr Chu said.