Public hospitals should set up a new salary adjustment system for doctors - with reference to their counterparts in the private sector - so they can be paid a fairer wage, a former secretary for the civil service said. Joseph Wong Wing-ping made the suggestion amid a pay dispute between the Hospital Authority and medics who staged a mass sit-in at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei on Wednesday. "Given that private doctors are making much more money, it may be better in the long run to refer to salaries in the private market [for comparison], rather than those of civil servants," he said. Watch: Hong Kong public doctors stage mass sit-in for pay rise The doctors were protesting against the authority's decision not to increase the salaries of senior doctors by 3 percent - backdated to last October - in line with those of senior civil servants, based on a six-yearly Civil Service Pay Level Survey report released in 2013. The report is in addition to the annual pay adjustment for civil servants, which the authority has usually followed when adjusting doctors' salaries over the past two decades. The authority told its staff this month that the additional 3 per cent adjustment for senior civil servants would not apply to more than 2,000 of its senior public doctors, as their pay scales were not aligned to the government salary mechanism. READ MORE: Doctors' sit-in protest over pay rise achieves immediate results This group of doctors opted to transfer to new terms of employment when the Hospital Authority was formed in 1991, before which all doctors were treated as civil servants. In doing so, they chose to adopt a new pay scale - delinked from that of the civil servants. However, over the years, the authority continued to adjust public doctors' salaries in line with the government's scale, although it was not legally required to do so. The authority said the pay rise for 2,000 doctors was not in its original budget and would cost the public-funded body an additional HK$200 million a year. The authority received HK$49 billion in annual recurrent allocation from the government for the year 2015-2016. "Even though the pay level of public hospital staff is not legally linked to that of the civil servants, it is unfair to deprive them of this 3 per cent pay rise given the contribution they have made to society," said Wong. "The decision rests entirely with the government. They could seek extra funding from the Legislative Council if they wanted to approve the pay rise. I cannot see the public and lawmakers rejecting such funding if it was proposed." Dr Pierre Chan, president of the Public Doctors' Association, said his members preferred the current pay mechanism. "Although the government, Hospital Authority and staff have been under different impacts, this mechanism has been very effective," he said.