LCQ11: Wave of retirement in Hospital Authority

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Joseph Lee Kok-long and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (June 13):


     It has been learnt that the Hospital Authority (HA) anticipates that healthcare staff born in the post-war baby boom are close to their retirement age and a wave of retirement will emerge in HA.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council if it knows:

(a) the number of nurses reaching retirement age in the coming 10 years as anticipated by HA, and list in the table in Annex 1 the respective numbers of nurses of different hospital clusters retiring each year;

(b) the numbers of nurses who will retire in each of the coming 10 years as anticipated by HA, and the respective percentages of such numbers in the total numbers of nurses, and list the breakdown in the table in Annex 2;

(c) whether there will be enough experienced nurses by that time to fill those vacancies arising from retirement of the nurses concerned, as anticipated by HA; if so, the details; if not, how the authorities will tackle the problem arising from retirement of experienced nurses; and

(d) whether HA will focus on the retirement of experienced nurses one after another and introduce new measures to retain experienced nurses to work for HA; if it will, the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     With an ageing population and advancement in medical technology, there is an increasing demand for healthcare services in the community, and the manpower requirement for healthcare personnel grows commensurately.  We have set up the Steering Committee on Strategic Review on Healthcare Manpower Planning and Professional Development, chaired by the Secretary for Food and Health, to conduct a strategic review on healthcare manpower planning and professional development in Hong Kong.  The Steering Committee is tasked to formulate recommendations on how to cope with anticipated demand for healthcare manpower, strengthen professional training and facilitate professional development having regard to the findings of the strategic review, with a view to ensuring the healthy and sustainable development of our healthcare system.  On the training for healthcare professions, the Government has obtained the funding approval by the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council and will, for the three years starting from 2012-13, allocate an addition of $200 million to increase the number of first-year first-degree places in medicine by 100 to 420 per year, nursing by 40 to 630 and allied health professional by 146.  Extra places will also be offered by self-financing post-secondary institutions to train more nurses.

     In the past few years, the Hospital Authority (HA) has implemented a series of measures to address manpower issues.  As for nursing manpower, HA recruited some 1 730 additional nurses in 2011-2012 to meet the service demand.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) Currently, there are a total of about 21 000 nurses in HA.  In general, the retirement age for nurses is 60.  As anticipated by HA, the number of nurses who will reach their retirement age in the coming ten years is set out in Annex 3.

(b) As anticipated by HA, the number of nurses in various specialties who will reach their retirement age in the coming ten years is set out in Annex 4.
     At present, HA is unable to project the actual number of nurses from 2012-13 onwards and is thus not able to provide the percentage of the total number of nurses who will retire the coming 10 years.

(c) In recent years, HA has recruited about 300 experienced nurses from the market each year.  HA also endeavoured to promote the continuing professional development of nurses in order to effectively replenish the loss of professional skills arising from the turnover of nurses.  A series of structured training courses are provided by HA for all ranks of nurses.  To meet the nursing needs of most of the specialties, the number of post-registration certificate courses on different specialties for Registered Nurses had increased by more than two-fold to 25 during the period from 2007-08 to 2011-12.  Over the same period, the number of nurses trained had also increased significantly from some 400 to about 1 100.

     Moreover, in the light of its overall priorities in service development, HA has subsidised nurses to receive overseas training for attainment and enhancement of professional knowledge and skills.  HA has launched a corporate scholarship programme since 2009-10 to sponsor Advance Practice Nurses and senior nurses to attend a four-week overseas training.  In 2009-10 and 2010-11, over 100 nurses received sponsorships to attend overseas training.  To support the career development of enrolled nurses, HA has enhanced the training sponsorship and offered full pay salary for nurses undertaking conversion courses to attain Registered Nurse qualification starting from 2011-12.

(d) To retain experienced nurses, HA has introduced a number of initiatives as set out below:

(i) Enhancement of promotion opportunities of nurses

     To further enhance the promotion opportunities of nurses, HA created a number of additional promotion posts including over 50 Nurse Consultants and 150 Advance Practice Nurse posts in 2011-12 on top of those for normal replacements and planned new services.  The number of posts of Senior Nursing Officer/Department Operations Manager for normal replacement and planned new services was 40 whereas the number of promotion posts of Nursing Officer/Ward Manager/Advance Practice Nurse was 438.

(ii) Improvement of working arrangements

     HA has taken measures to relieve nurses from non-clinical work, including enhancement of clerical support and topping up the delivery of medical consumables and supplies.  HA also endeavoured to modernise the frequently used equipment to alleviate nurses' workload.  For instance, a replacement plan was formulated in 2007 with the target of replacing 9 000 standard hospitals beds with electrically-operated beds in five years to reduce manual handling during patient ambulation.  Besides, HA has also increased the rate of allowance for the continuous night scheme to provide better incentives for nurses to undertake continuous night shift duties as well as reducing frequent night duties of nurses to not more than once in every seven days as far as practicable.  HA will review the impact of its various initiatives on nurses' workload, and suitably re-prioritise and adjust the pace of initiatives having regard to the actual manpower availability.

(iii) Strengthening of workforce to address workload demand

     To provide the necessary manpower for maintaining existing services and supporting service enhancement initiatives, HA plans to recruit about 2 000 nurses in 2012-13.  HA will also continue to train up nurses.  The training places for Registered Nurse and Enrolled Nurse students will be about 300 and 100 respectively for this year.

Ends/Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Issued at HKT 13:47