Recently, with the aim of easing theshortage of nurses, the Hospital Authorityannounced that public hospitalshad a hiring target of 2,000 nurses this year.
While welcoming any measure that could boostnursing numbers,I must cast doubt on the effectiveness of the authority's claimto relieve this chronic problem.
In the past few years, the turnover rate of Hospital Authority nurses has been high. The non-stopexodus of experienced nurses, over 5 per cent each year for the past few years, remains the root cause of the shortage. Therefore,bringing in new blood will nottackle this problem.
Instead, effective measures should be adopted to retain talented staff currently employed.
Interestingly, the existing human resources policy on nursing in theauthority is the major cause of the high turnover rate.
There is no increment for new recruits after the first year of appointment; a fixed cash allowance instead of an allowance as a percentage of the nurse's salary; obliteration of "omitted points" (an incremental jump of two pay points) from the pay scale; and limited opportunity in specialty training and promotion.
These are just a few of the poorpolicy measures that deter experienced nurses from staying in theauthority.
In addition, the continuously unreasonable high patient load,one nurse to 12 to 14 patients, further frustrates nurses' efforts to optimisepatient care.
To resolve this chronic nursing shortage in public hospitals, I would suggest a two-pronged approach.
Immediate action must be taken to revise the human resources policy on nursing and to establish an explicit standard on nurse-patient ratio.
Also, the authority should employ a sufficient number of new blood and experienced nursesto bring the number of nurses to the established standard.
The measures I propose do have resources implications. Therefore, the chief executive-elect, with a view to sustaining the quality of nursing services of public hospitals, should consider channelling appropriate resources so these proposals can be implemented.