Date
20 July 2019
Doctors gather for a protest inside a hospital in Hong Kong on Oct. 21, 2015. The government has faced resistance as it sought to make it easier for overseas trained specialists to practice in the city. Photo: Reuters
Doctors gather for a protest inside a hospital in Hong Kong on Oct. 21, 2015. The government has faced resistance as it sought to make it easier for overseas trained specialists to practice in the city. Photo: Reuters

Time to act on ‘medical hegemony’

The controversy over relaxation of internship requirements for overseas trained specialist doctors appears to have been brought to a close.

Although the medical sector has finally agreed on a more relaxed regime, the so-called “medical hegemony” has again reared its head in the process, with talk of professional autonomy once again being used by some doctors to protect their own selfish interests.

And some representatives of young doctors in the public healthcare sector have even tried to mislead the public by saying that the proposal could open the floodgates to mainland doctors.

However, as we can see, such false accusations couldn’t stand even the most basic scrutiny.

It is because, currently, all non-locally trained doctors, no matter where they have received their academic qualifications, must pass the Licensing Examination of the Medical Council of Hong Kong (MCHK) and complete a period of assessment in approved hospitals as determined by the MCHK first, before they can practice as a registered medical practitioner in Hong Kong.

Under the new proposal, overseas specialists can get a full license as long as they have worked for the Hospital Authority, the Department of Health or medical schools in Hong Kong for three years and passed the licensing examination, without having to complete an internship.

In other words, mainland doctors don’t have any unfair advantage over other overseas trained doctors under the new proposal not to mention that unlike Hong Kong, the mainland doesn’t have a system of specialist doctors.

As a matter of fact, despite the relaxation of restrictions, the new proposal is still predicted to be unattractive to overseas trained doctors. According to the estimation of the local medical sector, such relaxation may only draw no more than 10 overseas trained specialists to practice in our city.

That being said, the government must keep breaking down barriers in introducing overseas trained doctors to our city in order to ease the acute manpower shortage in our public healthcare sector.

Meanwhile, authorities should provide more information available for the licensing examination and enhance transparency, as well as reform the existing licensing examination run by the MCHK such as introducing a stage-by-stage examination mechanism.

Also, the government should take better care of overseas trained doctors who have come to Hong Kong to practice, such as providing accommodation and education for their spouses and children, so as to assist them in leading a stable life in our city.

Of course, it is equally important to make sure that these overseas doctors fulfill their contract duties in Hong Kong, such as serving in our public healthcare institutions for a designated period of time during their stay.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 9

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

JC/RC

Dr. Shae Wan-chaw is former associate dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences of the the Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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