HA to hire more nurses, offer higher pay to ease work strain

March 15, 2019 16:27
The government will roll out several measures to ease the burden on frontline hospital staff. Photo: HKEJ

The Hospital Authority (HA) pledged to hire more nurses and increase their pay in a bid to ease the burden of frontline healthcare workers amid the severe manpower shortage and surging patient numbers in public hospitals.

Representatives of the Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff (AHKNS) met with HA chief executive Dr. Leung Pak-yin on Thursday to discuss manpower and pay issues, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

Lawmaker Joseph Lee Kok-long, who represents the health services functional constituency and chairs the AHKNS, said the association called on the authorities to bring back a 16.5 percent allowance that was replaced by a fixed amount payment during a downsizing in 2000, RTHK reported.

More junior nurses should be hired to fill up vacancies resulting from promotions so that experienced staff can perform clinical supervision, the AHKNS said.

In response, the HA promised to add 350 Advance Practice Nurse positions and 10 Nurse Consultant slots in fiscal 2019-20 to strengthen senior staff coverage at night, with an additional 200 ward clerks to be recruited for clerical support and coverage enhancement.

It will also continue to recruit part-time nurses to relieve the work pressure on frontline nurses in the interim.

Because of the additional funding support from the government, the authority said it “will offer an additional incremental salary point to registered nurses who have attained the requirements as specialty nurses to encourage professional development of nursing care”. Details are to be announced soon.

The authority also promised to look into the association’s proposed salary review for nursing staff, including the resumption of a previous pay scale, but said it would have to consider the financial feasibility of the proposal.

The HA will also boost by 50 percent the training places for enrolled nurses under the registered nurses conversion program. 

It noted that there is a diversity of views with regard to shift arrangements, so the HA will keep liaising with nurses to reach a consensus. The HA will keep close communication with nursing staff groups as well.

Meanwhile, a paper jointly prepared by the authority and the Food and Health Bureau on corporate governance and the manpower situation in public hospitals, will be presented at a special meeting of the Legislative Council's health services panel next Tuesday.

As of Dec. 31 last year, the HA has 6,045 doctors, 26,955 nurses, 8,008 allied health professionals and 15,215 care-related support personnel, or a total of 56,223 full-time staff, according to the paper.

The authority “targets to recruit 520 doctors and 2,270 nurses in 2019-20”, the paper said.

A total of 420 administrative assistants will be recruited gradually from 2019-20 to 2021-22 to “enhance the clerical support to ward operations and relieve the administrative duties of nurses, who could then concentrate more on bedside clinical care for better patient services”.

The HA will also pilot fractional work arrangements in the first quarter of 2019 for medical staff in the accident and emergency as well as family medicine departments, and possibly roll out such measures for medical staff and other grades if considered appropriate.

(Fractional work refers to a special arrangement for full-time staff who may have to work fractionally or on a part-time basis for valid health or family reasons for a fixed period of time, after which they will resume their full-time duties.)

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