Patients helping out with basic tasks

SOME patients are doing the jobs of nurses, the South China Morning Post has discovered.

Those not confined to bed and with a reasonable degree of mobility often carry out basic tasks. Some fetch chamber pots, cups and buckets while others keep an eye on more needy patients and call nurses and doctors if necessary.

The astonishing discovery would seem to support the claims that the territory is suffering from a shortage of nurses.

Wan Leung Siu-man, 40, was admitted to Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei last Tuesday suffering from back pain.

She said some elderly patients who could not move after surgery lacked attention and care from nurses.

''I don't know how many nurses are in my ward. I just saw some patients calling the nurses but not being answered immediately or at all because the nurses were too busy and had no time to take care of every patient.

''Since I am all right and can walk, I usually ask the patients what they need and see if I can help. I can help with some simple jobs,'' said Mrs Wan.

She said nurses were most busy between about 7 am and 8 am when the patients wake up and need someone to help them wash, go to the toilet, and eat breakfast.

Lunch time was another busy time for nurses, who have to serve patients their meals. Nurses were less busy in the late afternoon when most patients were visited by their relatives, who usually helped take care of the dinners, she said.

Mrs Wan blamed the Government for the situation. ''I just don't understand why the Government doesn't put more money in the field and recruit more nurses.'' Chan Kai-lau, 53, who suffers from diabetes and is receiving treatment in hospital, said he dared not help other patients because he did not know how to help.

''But I keep watching the patients to see if they need any assistance. I will call nurses if necessary,'' Mr Chan said.