Voting set on new plan to ease rules for foreign doctors

April 26, 2019 15:14
Dr. Ho Chung-ping (center, front row), president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, and other representatives of the association hold a news conference on Thursday. Photo: HKEJ

The Medical Council of Hong Kong, which oversees the registration of medical practitioners in the city, will vote on a new plan to ease the severe staff shortage in public hospitals, after it rejected four previous proposals to achieve the purpose.

Stakeholders in the medical sector presented the fifth proposal during a meeting with Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee on Thursday night to discuss how to relax the current system of internship for overseas-trained doctors who want to work in Hong Kong under limited registration, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Dr. Ho Chung-ping, president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, told media after the meeting that he considers the latest proposal the fairest of the five as it could achieve equal treatment of doctors.

Under the new plan, the internship requirement will be waived for specialists who are not trained locally as long as they could pass the licensing examination within at least three years that they are working for the Hospital Authority (HA), the Department of Health or one of the medical schools of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and the University of Hong Kong (HKU), and obtain an 18-month clinical work experience after their examination.

Ho stressed that the latest proposal is just a fine-tuning of a fifth measure proposed earlier this month, and not a concession to overseas doctors.

Currently, overseas medical practitioners are required to pass the licensing examination administered by the council and complete a period of internship in any of the approved hospitals before they may be registered as medical practitioners.

Asked how the council will determine if a foreign specialist doctor has finished the required 18-month clinical experience, Ho said the health department and the two universities – CUHK and HKU – will be responsible for that and they certainly will not falsify data.

Members of the council are scheduled to vote on the new proposal, and again on the four previously rejected measures, on May 8.

Ho said he is convinced that the new plan is more likely to be accepted, although his association still has to consult legal advice to prevent a potential judicial review being filed against it.

Meanwhile, Secretary Chan told media that Thursday’s meeting was constructive and harmonious, adding that she hopes the Medical Council will come up with a positive decision under the principle of equal treatment next month.

Aside from issues relating to specialists, Chan said the meeting also brainstormed on how to attract intermediate-level doctors and fresh medical school graduates to work in Hong Kong.

She stressed that giving non-locally-trained doctors the opportunity to be promoted will not affect the prospects of local doctors of getting promoted.

In the meeting, HA representatives also explored ways to streamline the existing limited registration system application procedures in order to allow them to work in Hong Kong more quickly.

Speaking on a radio program on Friday, Ho also said that aside from Medical Council members from his association, he has also contacted council members outside the association to seek their approval of the fifth proposal.

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