A dozen groups protested outside a hospital yesterday in a bid to make officials restrict one-way permits to relieve pressure on medical staff.
Led by legislators Gary Fan Kwok-wai and Claudia Mo Man-ching and representatives from doctors and nurses unions, more than 100 people marched from Sai Yeung Choi Street in Mong Kok to Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei calling for the daily quota of 150 immigrants from the mainland to be cut.
"Our doctors and nurses face tremendous pressure, and patients have to wait for hours at accident and emergency departments," Fan said. "How can we afford to let in so many new immigrants to burden our medical system?"
The action came after unions staged large-scale protests last month about heavy workloads and stress as a result of public hospitals working beyond capacities amid manpower shortages.
On Saturday, a doctor highlighted in a Facebook posting the case of a mainland woman in her 80s obtaining an identity card a month ago.
She only went visit a local hospital after a fall at home and being diagnosed with fractures in mainland hospitals. Doctors in Hong Kong, having to do a chest X-ray prior to surgery, found she had a seriously bloated heart.
"But even though her condition was quite serious she couldn't get the surgery done immediately as the queue for urgent procedures meant it took two days before it could be done," the doctor wrote.
Then the woman had "unbelievably cheap" treatment by paying HK$120 a day for everything - X-rays, surgery, physiotherapy and drugs.
On a related front, Executive Council member Lam Ching-choi suggested the Hospital Authority relax the retirement age for doctors and ask senior doctors to return to the front line instead of doing management work only.
He said some specialties saw "faults" in team compositions and lacked middle-rank doctors.
Lam, chairman for the Elderly Commission, also said tax deductions and subsidies could encourage firms to extend retirement age.
The time is coming when a third of the population will be elderly, he said, "but our current policy treats elderly citizens as a burden on society. Looking at short-term measures alone will not bring us sustainable development."