10 per cent rise in overtime allowance for Hong Kong health care workers in public hospitals
Nursing union welcomes plan and ‘fairer treatment’ as overcrowded hospitals struggle to cope
Nurses and health care workers who work overtime at Hong Kong’s public hospitals will receive a 10 per cent increase in allowances from next Monday under a raft of measures to cope with the surge in service demand amid the flu season.
Leung Pak-yin, the Hospital Authority’s chief executive, announced the move on Friday as he detailed how extra funding from the government would be spent.
On January 30, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the city’s public hospitals would get a HK$500 million (US$64 million) injection as they struggled to cope. Lam also promised “resource support” for the authority to implement relevant measures.
Public hospitals have seen bed occupancy rates go through the roof with patients spilling out of wards into corridors.
Leung said the authority would spend an additional HK$400 million on top of the HK$500 million.
He added that starting from Monday, health care staff would be paid more under the special honorarium scheme for those working extra hours.
“We will increase the special honorarium allowance by 10 per cent,” he added, noting that the arrangement would be more flexible.
“In the past, staff had to work two [extra] hours to get paid,” Leung explained. The new plan reduces this criteria by one hour.
He said the relaxed allowance scheme, which would last until the end of May when the flu season ends, would apply to nurses, other health care workers and clerical staff.
The authority will also extend the use of the scheme for extra clerical and support staff to free up health care employees for clinical work. Supervision for ward staff will also be enhanced for night-shift duties.
Other measures include adding 700 beds and hiring more part-time nurses in wards.
Joseph Lee Kok-long, chairman of the Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff, said the arrangement would mean “fairer” staff treatment.
“It is the usual practice for nursing staff to work one to two hours more as they hand over their duties to colleagues on the next shift,” he added. “It will be fairer if this extra time is counted too.”
Statistics from the authority showed that on Thursday, the overall inpatient bed occupancy rate was 111 per cent. United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong was the most crowded, at 122 per cent.
On the same day, a total of 6,052 people sought medical care from the city’s public emergency departments, with 1,113 admitted to medical wards.