Medical sector strike organisers have urged the Hospital Authority to offer staff more support to handle the coronavirus outbreak or face mass resignations.
The strike, led by the newly-formed Hospital Authority Employees Alliance (HAEA), began on Monday. Thousands of public healthcare workers have demanded the Hong Kong government close its remaining border crossings with mainland China in a bid to stop the spread of the virus. All travellers from the mainland will be required to enter quarantine for 14 days from Saturday onwards.
There have been over 28,000 confirmed cases of new infections worldwide and over 560 deaths – including one in Hong Kong, according to official figures. The novel virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, and resembles the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed more than 300 people in Hong Kong in 2003.
The HAEA hosted an information stand outside the Prince of Wales Hospital to receive questions about the strike from residents.
“The government is impotent – only Hong Kong people can save themselves! Close the border fully now!” participants chanted.
The union entered into negotiations with the Hospital Authority at around 5pm.
HAEA Vice-Chair Ivan Law said the group may prolong the strike if the Hospital Authority fails to respond to their demands, such as providing adequate protective gear to medics.
“None of our demands have been met. Asking medical professionals to go back to work is like pushing them to their deaths,” he said. “If we cannot negotiate and reach an agreement, medical professionals will lose hope and continue their strike or even resign en masse – the Hospital Authority must bear full responsibility for this.”
“All Hongkongers will face the consequences [of the government’s decisions]. The Hospital Authority must make the next move, I hope they will make a good decision,” Law added.
HAEA Chair Winnie Yu said the group had nearly 20,000 members, representing around a quarter of the total number of staff employed by the Hospital Authority.
She said around 7,000 healthcare workers had joined the strike, with 13,000 still working.
“The Hospital Authority has no choice but to respond to our demands,” she added,