The Hospital Authority said at least 4,400 hospital staffers were absent from work today and doctors from private hospitals had been tapped to help out as an ongoing medical workers’ strike took its toll amid the ongoing Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
Deacons Yeung Tai-kong, director of the Hospital Authority’s cluster services, said Kowloon Central, Kowloon West, and New Territories East were most seriously affected by the strike. He also did not eliminate the possibility of closing down accident and emergency departments in the coming days if employees from those units continue to strike.
He said the strike significantly affected neonatal wards and oncology care, in particular.
“We are asking if we can refer some of our cases to the private sector,” said Yeung.
He said the authority is also cutting down on nonessential services to divert more manpower to emergency care.
Yeung appealed to the striking staff members to come back to work, and promised officials would reallocate workloads better so as to minimize their burden.
The strike, organized by the newly formed Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, is aimed at forcing the government to completely shut down the border with the mainland to stem the flow of the Wuhan coronavirus. While the government has closed all but three ports of entry into the city, it has resisted calls to close the rest.
The alliance put the number of striking medical workers even higher than the Hospital Authority, at more than 7,000.
Members of the alliance say Hong Kong hospitals are overwhelmed as it is thanks to the current peak flu season. The alliance has also maintained that some hospitals lack protective gear, and that frontline workers are being exposed to unnecessary risks.
Asked about the shortage, Yeung said the Hospital Authority had in January ordered enough masks and protective gear to last for six months, but did not give an exact time as to when the materials will arrive.
The entire city is in the midst of a mask shortage as runaway fears over the Wuhan coronavirus — which has killed one and sickened 17 so far — have prompted panic-buying of face masks, sanitizing products, and even groceries.