'Strike could delay half of pre-booked operations' - RTHK
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'Strike could delay half of pre-booked operations'

2020-02-02 HKT 19:36
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  • 'Strike could delay half of pre-booked operations'
The Hospital Authority on Sunday warned that it expects around half of all pre-booked operations at public hospitals to have to be postponed if thousands of frontline staff go ahead with a planned strike starting on Monday.

The HA also said it agrees with frontline staff that the government should do what it can to reduce the flow of people from the mainland to safeguard Hong Kong from the Wuhan virus – but opposes their plans to strike, as it’ll be the patients who suffer the consequences.

The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance said on Sunday that thousands of workers will go on strike starting on Monday – with non-essential staff staying away from work first, followed by essential personnel on subsequent days – if the government doesn’t respond to their demands for a full closure of the border with the mainland.

The HA’s chief manager for cluster performance, Ian Cheung, said the action would affect a number of services, and said officials will prioritise maintaining emergency services; those for cancer patients; and new cases at specialist clinics.

Patients who are stable and already have a prescription for drugs, he said, can give their identity card and appointment slips to a family member or friend, to get more drugs for now.

But he urged patients to wait for a week if possible to even call the authority about rescheduling appointments, because he anticipates a flood of calls in the coming days.

“I hope everybody – if you have drugs at hand – don’t hurry… you just need to wait one week more and then let the urgent cases to [contact us] first, we’ll handle this with priority”, Cheung said.

The head of the authority, Tony Ko, said he had personally relayed to Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other government officials the importance of clamping down on the influx of people to contain the spread of the virus.

“You might have heard from many experts – now is the critical time in our fight against this… potential epidemic”, Ko said.

He said he agrees with some staff that reducing the flow of people between Hong Kong and the mainland would be an “effective” way to prevent the outbreak from spreading in Hong Kong, going on strike is “not a good way” to express this view.

“I think many colleagues, though they may choose different ways to express their view, we do share the common goals. It’s really the way of expressing the views”, Ko said.

He said he hopes staff have a change of heart about going on strike, and stressed that what the government does is ultimately up to Carrie Lam.

Ko said those who take part in the industrial action will have to take responsibility for their actions.

Pressed about what penalties staff may face, he said this will be looked at on a case-by-case basis based on human resources guidelines.