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Crippled hospitals to tap private sector for help

2020-02-04 HKT 18:47
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  • Deacons Yeung (right) didn’t rule out closing emergency departments in the coming days if more employees go on strike. Photo: RTHK
    Deacons Yeung (right) didn’t rule out closing emergency departments in the coming days if more employees go on strike. Photo: RTHK
The Hospital Authority said 4,400 workers walked off from their hospital jobs in protest on Tuesday and it is tapping the private hospitals for help as the strike has seriously disrupted services at several hospitals.

The staff are on strike to demand the government close all borders with the mainland to prevent a large scale import of Wuhan virus infections into the city. They say Hong Kong hospitals will break down otherwise, as they are already inundated with patients during the current flu season.

The HA's director for cluster services, Dr Deacons Yeung, said Kowloon Central, Kowloon West and New Territories East were most seriously affected by the strike.

Yeung didn’t rule out closing accident and emergency departments in the coming days, if employees from the same unit stay off work.

He said the strike significantly affected services, in particular specialised areas such as neonatal wards and cancer care. He said the authority is in touch with the private sector to manage the situation.

"We are asking if we can refer some of our cases to the private sector," said Yeung. "They are very kind and extended their support to us... so we are going to see if we can get some more help from outside."

He said they are also trimming down non-essential services to beef up emergency care.

Yeung said the authority appealed to the striking employees to come back to work and promised that it would rearrange work to minimise their workload.

The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, the newly formed union that is organising the strike, has claimed that there is not enough protective gear in some hospitals and frontline workers are being exposed to unnecessary risks.

Asked about this, Yeung said the authority had in January ordered enough masks and protective equipment to last six months, but the supplies are being delayed. He did not give an exact time as to when the authorities expect to receive them.

The alliance said in a statement later that 7,000 workers took part in the strike on Tuesday.