Ageing Hong Kong needs to open its doors to overseas doctors, as shortage is hurting patients
I refer to the Hong Kong doctor who has been banned for six months over the death of an elderly cancer patient in Kowloon Hospital in 2011.
Dr Wong Cheuk-yi was found guilty of professional misconduct after the 73-year-old patient’s only means of breathing – a permanent surgical incision in the windpipe – was mistaken for a temporary wound and covered with gauze. He was also found guilty of failing to alert or instruct nursing or other medical staff that the wound was a permanent tracheostoma, and not a temporary tracheostomy.
Such medical blunders must be taken seriously, and are a reminder of how a drastic shortage of medical personnel affects Hong Kong. Wong’s defence counsel said he had to tend to patients at both Kowloon and Queen Elizabeth hospitals, and was “a victim of the breakdown of the system of the Hospital Authority”.
This came just a few months after a liver surgeon left a transplant patient on an operating table at Queen Mary Hospital for three hours, while he performed surgery at another hospital. Dr Kelvin Ng Kwok-chai was on a special part-time contract because of a severe manpower crunch at Queen Mary.
It is important to address the short-sightedness in blocking outsiders from coming to work in Hong Kong, and this is not confined to the medical sector. The construction industry, for example, has also been suffering from an acute undersupply of skilled workers. Yet, local unions tend to resist letting in more overseas workers, insisting that they would take away jobs from locals.
Those who are supposed to take care of the interests of their trades and professions should think twice about their strategies. A protectionist mindset no longer works in an ageing Hong Kong, which is understaffed almost everywhere you look.
Marcus Lee, Sai Kung