Severe shortage of Hong Kong psychiatrists 'means they have just minutes to decide if patient's condition is dangerous'

Posted on September 15, 2015

Based on current trends, the number of psychiatrists at public hospitals in Hong Kong is not expected to reach the level recommended by the World Health Organisation for another two decades.

There are only around 300 psychiatrists employed in the city’s public hospitals – 400 fewer than the number recommended by the WHO, which says there should be one psychiatrist available for every 10,000 people.

Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists spokesman Dr Chan Lap-kei said the shortfall means psychiatrists in the public sector only have a few minutes to talk to each patient to decide whether their mental condition is in serious need of medical care.

“Usually we only have a few minutes to talk to a patient to see whether his or her condition is dangerous,” Chan said. “If they seem to be quite stable, we rush on to see the next patient, since the workload is really heavy.”

The woman who leapt to her death with her son from the 30th floor of a public housing block in Tuen Mun yesterday had been suffering from depression for a decade after she gave birth.

Chan said each psychiatrist has to see an average of around 40 mental health patients in a four-hour session every day. During a brief consultation, the doctor decides whether to admit the patient to hospital by watching for any display of suicidal or violent tendencies.

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Category(s):Mental Health in Asia

Source material from South China Morning Post