Cash for more nurses sought

Local | Carain Yeung 17 Jun 2016

The Chinese University of Hong Kong is seeking government funding to increase the number of places for its bachelor of nursing program by 50 from the current 200 per year.

CUHK's Nethersole School of Nursing director Chair Sek-ying said yesterday this would be an effective measure to address the manpower shortage of nurses in the SAR.

She said the current nurse-to-patient ratio in the public medical sector is as high as one to 12 during the day, and one to 20 at night, compared with the international standard of one to six.

Chair revealed that her school's bachelor of nursing program attracts about 6,000 high-caliber applicants each year, enrolling 200. But with additional funding, it could take 50 more students annually, while maintaining teaching quality, she said.

The program is funded by the University Grants Committee, and any funding adjustment will have to go through complicated procedures.

As such, Chair said the school is asking for a one-off government grant for the three UGC-funded universities with nursing programs, to boost the uptake of the first-year students.

A new private hospital is reported to have reached out to hundreds of nurses for its opening next year, a move that would further tighten the manpower shortage in public hospitals.

Chair said about 90 percent of their graduates join the public sector annually.

"I often have graduates telling me they will absolutely apply for public hospitals. They say with the high number of patients, they will be able to learn a lot in a short period of time from different cases they may not be able to see in private hospitals," she said.

The quality of training has come under the spotlight as recent medical blunders involve mistakes by nurses.

Three Kowloon Hospital nurses were suspended for one month on Monday over a 2011 blunder, in which a cancer patient died after his artificial breathing hole was blocked by gauze.

The Nursing Council heard earlier the nurses had mistaken the permanent tracheostomy to be a temporary one, and that one of the nurses was assigned the shift-in-charge position only about a month after she had joined the profession.

Chair said her school's program provides basic specialization courses, although the standard is different from the nursing care needed at the specialist wards.

But she also said there is cooperation with the Academy of Nursing providing more in-depth specialist courses for practicing nurses.

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