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Working in the healthcare industry has the drawback of having to deal with irregular and extremely long working hours despite the benefit of a high income. This is especially during times of a new virus or disease such as the recent Wuhan pneumonia outbreak, leaving medical professionals prone to stress and burn-out  and impacting employee retention in the healthcare sector.

Dr Frank Yau, who has more than 10 years of experience working in both private and public hospitals, is now the medical director of insurance company Bowtie. Here he shares the challenges the medical industry in Hong Kong is facing and advises the possible future direction for human resources.

What is the biggest HR challenge in the medical industry?

The problem of a talent shortage in the medical industry is severe in Hong Kong, and the reasons mainly falls into two areas. One is in the increasing demand for talents due to medical advancement and medical tourism.

Many critical illnesses are now becoming more treatable, yet the training nowadays is highly specialised and more time is required. Growing patient demand from the increasing population and new immigrants , as well as the impact of an ageing population, also contribute to the talent demand.

The second area is the difficulty in maintaining employee satisfaction in the new generation of medical professionals. Flexible working hours is becoming more popular but its balance with job satisfaction is never easy, especially in the highly stressed medical industry.

What can be done and what are the future recruitment trends in the industry? 

That would certainly be making changes to enhance employee satisfaction, which is lagging behind compared to other industries. This is key to success for healthcare organisations in finding their way to improve the level of care and patient satisfaction. Achieving a lower turnover rate, it would be easier to build a patient-centred care with continuity.

Another way would be to tackle the fundamental problem in the medical industry, which is the overburdened public healthcare services.

Over the past few years, Hong Kong people have reluctantly suffered from lengthy waiting times at public hospitals. According to a recent report published by the Consumer Council, it noted that although 43% of hospitalised patients were covered by personal health insurance, they still opted to be treated in public hospitals because they are uncertain about their insurance policy terms and conditions and lack certainty as to whether the exorbitant private medical costs are eligible for insurance claims. We believe that Hong Kong people deserve more comprehensive medical protection.

How could healthcare workers such as nurses, pharmacists and doctors fit into the future landscape of flexible working?

Flexible work arrangements are starting to take off in many private healthcare organisations. It helps to ease pressure during peak demand periods, e.g. during the influenza season, and makes recruitment and retention of talents much easier. It would be foreseeable that the working arrangement for doctors, nurses and pharmacists will be more responsive to service demand rather than a conventional rigid structure.