Date
20 July 2019
Professor Joseph Lau, chairman of the Medical Council of Hong Kong, said he will call for another round of voting on the rejected proposals during the council's meeting next month. Photo: TVB News
Professor Joseph Lau, chairman of the Medical Council of Hong Kong, said he will call for another round of voting on the rejected proposals during the council's meeting next month. Photo: TVB News

Medical Council chair wants new voting on foreign doctors plan

The Medical Council of Hong Kong has not given up on a plan to allow overseas doctors to practice in the city in a bid to ease the severe staff shortage in public hospitals, even after the proposal has been rejected.

Professor Joseph Lau Wan-yee, the council’s chairman, said he will initiate another round of voting on the issue during its meeting next month, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

On April 3, the council, which oversees the registration of eligible medical practitioners in Hong Kong, presented four proposals to waive an internship requirement for specialist doctors not locally trained to allow them to immediately take up positions in the city’s public healthcare system, after they pass the requirements for service in the public sector and the licensing examination.

All of the four measures were turned down in secret balloting by 29 council members.

Lau revealed on Thursday that he intends to present a motion during the council’s regular meeting on May 8 to suspend a house rule disallowing an issue to be settled again through voting six months after it has been approved or rejected.

If the motion is backed by more than two-thirds of the council members, he will then propose that the four rejected measures be put to vote again, and that the exercise be done openly rather than through secret balloting, Lau said.

He said the council members have a public responsibility and their individual decisions should be made known to the public through open voting.

Dr. Victor Yeung Hip-wo, a council member and honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Medical Association, favored open balloting, while non-doctor council member Alex Lam Chi-yau, who is the chairman of Hong Kong Patients’ Voices, said he is not against the idea of voting on record but that other members might have a different view.

Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee told reporters that her bureau welcomes any measures that will boost the attractiveness of working in Hong Kong for overseas doctors.

What the council is proposing is but one small step toward that goal, Chan said.

The health chief on Thursday told lawmakers at a special meeting of the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee that even if the council approves one of its proposals, that alone would not solve the manpower shortage.

As such, Chan said authorities will pursue other measures as well, including providing more resources to the Hospital Authority to hire more doctors under limited registration.

“Those doctors may not be specialists, but they may be at an intermediate level and also doctors at different levels. I think we should introduce measures to attract those people as well,” she said.

Several associations are set to meet on Friday evening to discuss the proposals that will be put in the next month’s regular meeting of the medical council, as well as the voting method.

Representatives from associations such as the Hong Kong Medical Association and the Public Doctors’ Association are expected to join the discussion.

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TL/JC/CG

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