Public doctors' pay should not follow private-sector benchmarks

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 November, 2015, 10:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 November, 2015, 10:00am

In the wake of the mass sit-in for better wages, staged by the city's public-sector doctors, Joseph Wong Wing-ping, former secretary for civil service, suggested setting up a new salary adjustment system to avoid future pay disputes. He said the new system should be made with reference to remuneration for doctors in the private sector.

Wong reasoned that it might be better to refer to salaries in the private market for comparison's sake, since private doctors make much more money than their counterparts in the public sector.

I beg to differ. That private doctors make considerably more money than their Hospital Authority counterparts should not be a reason that private doctors' salary be made a benchmark, for the job nature of private doctors and public-sector doctors is essentially different.

While the work structure for a public-sector doctor is best described by teamwork, where ranks of nurses, paramedics, and junior and senior staff are available to offer necessary support, that of a private doctor is pretty much a one-man venture, with administrative and medical assistance provided by a couple of nurses. It's fair to say that public-sector doctors work in a system of shared responsibilities, and private doctors in a system of sole responsibility and total liability.

Let's not forget that private doctors don't work in shifts, which means they are practically on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Incidentally, as civil servants, public-sector doctors are entitled to paid holidays, study leave and fringe benefits, but the same cannot be said of private doctors: private doctors are, by all means, free to take a breather from work and go on vacation, but that will be reflected in a loss in revenue.

Similarly, public-sector doctors, as civil servants, enjoy better job security than those in the private sector.

Those who think private doctors are making disproportionately more money than public-sector doctors may want to know that private doctors, in fact, are paying much higher premiums for taking out the professional indemnity insurance.

The establishment of a new salary system for public-sector doctors is of paramount importance, but the reference for salary adjustment should be taken from other professionals of similar seniority levels in the public sector, not the private sector.

The salary of doctors in the Department of Health would be a good reference point, for instance.

Dr Chow Pak-chin, vice-president, Hong Kong Medical Association