Patience holds key to grouses amid pandemic

People have higher expectations for Hospital Authority services during the Covid epidemic, said a clinical coordinator at United Christian Hospital, and the pandemic has seen patient relations officers become a key communications bridge between frontline medical staff and patients.

The authority received 1,637 complaints and 18,560 feedbacks in 2021/22, 7.4 and 26.3 percent up from 1,524 complaints and 14,697 feedbacks, respectively, in the year before that.

Tami Hui Mei-fun, a patient relations officer at Caritas Medical Center, said the increases stemmed from anxiety among patients and family members due to rapid changes in Covid measures, curbs in patient visits and insufficient communications as frontline staff's busy schedule easily led to misunderstanding.

Ng Kwok-leung, who has handled countless complaints as clinical coordinator for quite a few years, said it's common for people to have demands for public services especially during the pandemic, and complaints should be handled with a positive attitude.

For him, complaints are valuable advice and recommendations that may help improve hospital services and promote doctor-patient relationships.

The first step is to listen patiently in a sitdown with the complainant, which Ng said can bridge the gap and start an effective communication.

"Once a father asked for his daughter, who still needed inpatient treatment, to be discharged and yelled, but lowered his voice and relaxed as soon as he was given a chair," Ng said.

He learned the father was dissatisfied with nurses spending more time taking care of another patient.

After talking with nurses, he found out that the other young patient had no relatives in town as her parents were in the mainland.

"Frontline medical staff may wonder 'why people complain when we've done the best we can,' but we should understand that frontline staff are under pressure facing complaints and willing to cooperate to find a solution to the problem."

Hui said patient relations officers "need to take an extra step to help resolve the problem, such as responding to inquiries as soon as possible, sharing the non-clinical work of frontline colleagues, seeking understanding from complainants that they may need more time to get replies during the pandemic, and discussing special cases with management in a timely manner."