The Food and Health Bureau (FHB) has forecast a shortfall of 1,000 doctors and 1,700 nurses in Hong Kong between now and 2030, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Other healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists, and optomerists, will also see shortages during the period, while a surplus of psychiatric nurses and pharmacists is expected, the bureau said.
In its report on healthcare manpower planning, the FHB made 10 recommendations to alleviate the situation, including increasing the number of slots for undergraduate courses in medical education, extending the contract period for retired doctors and healthcare professionals in public hospitals to 10 years from the current two years, and attracting students who have completed medical education overseas to work in Hong Kong.
Based on a manpower review on 12 medical professions by the University of Hong Kong, the report forecasts a shortage of over 4,800 medical personnel by 2030.
There are 14,000 doctors practicing in Hong Kong at present, but there will be a shortage of 1,007 by 2030, or as many as 1,575 in the worst case scenario, it said.
Over the next 13 years, there will be a shortage of 1,669 general nurses, although the number of psychiatric nurses is expected to be more than enough at 623.
Lawmaker Dr. Pierre Chan Pui-yin, who represents the medical functional constituency, said the government must first commit to boost the budget for the public health sector for the long term, otherwise there is no point in revealing the shortage of doctors.
Trained doctors would only become unemployed if the Hospital Authority does not have the financial resources to hire them, he said.
Chan warned that the employment crisis faced by doctors in the early 2000 could happen again if long-term resources are not guaranteed for the sector.
Dr. Gabriel Choi Kin, president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said the report appears to have exaggerated the shortage situation as it has failed to assess the capacity of private doctors.
Legislator Joseph Lee Kok-long, who is also the president of the Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff, said he was disappointed with the report as it assessed staffing needs based on maintaining existing service standards, and not improving them.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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