In an unprecedented strike, hundreds of medical workers including doctors and nurses stopped working in Hong Kong on Monday to protest against the government's failure to close the border with the mainland to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in the city.
From the morning, long queues of medical staff were seen outside public hospitals, waiting to register with a newly formed union and join the strike.
The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance initiated the industrial action, saying Hong Kong hospitals will not be able to cope with an outbreak if the border remains open and thousands of people keep travelling in and out of the mainland cities.
At the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, more than 200 medical workers waited in a queue to sign up at one point.
A physiotherapist, surnamed Cheng, said he hoped the government would be pressured into responding to their demands. He said he had informed his seniors and postponed patients’ treatment.
A long queue was also seen at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Medical workers wore white ribbons and put up stickers that read “Full closure of the border.”
The union’s secretary, Ng Chi-kit, said he was encouraged by the number of staff registering to join the strike.
A medical worker, surnamed Yu, said he hopes the government can solve the problem at source.
“There’ll be more patients if the government doesn’t shut the border. The problem can’t be solved however hard we work,” he said.
At Queen Mary Hospital in Pokfulam, a doctor waiting to register with the union said he struggled before deciding to join the strike as he’s worried about the impact of their action on patients.
“I hope the government will respond to our demands as soon as possible so I can go back to work,” he said,.
But a medical worker who said he works at an isolation ward opposed the industrial action.
A person who visited the hospital for a follow up consultation said he was worried about the safety of medical workers, but he thought they should take into consideration the interests of patients and fulfil their responsibilities.
Union leader Winnie Yu said more than 1,000 medical workers have taken part in the strike as of 10:30am, and she expects more will follow in the afternoon.
Yu said if the government doesn’t respond by 6pm on Monday, they will mobilise another 6,000 workers to join their strike on Tuesday.
The Hospital Authority’s Director for Cluster Services, Deacons Yeung, said the authority would closely monitor the situation.