HK doctors make more concessions in bid to recruit foreign-trained counterparts and ease shortage at public hospitals

01-May-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s doctors have made further concessions in the dispute over how much to lower certification requirements to attract overseas-trained doctors and ease the chronic shortage of specialists in the city’s public hospitals.

Hong Kong doctors on Monday submitted a revised proposal for foreign-trained doctors to the Medical Council, the body that certifies Hong Kong’s doctors, after discussion among the groups such as the Medical Association and the Public Doctors’ Association.

The latest proposal from the doctors’ groups comes with the council set to meet on May 8 to vote on how to relax an internship requirement for doctors who were trained overseas.

The council failed to pass a similar plan earlier this month and the internship requirement has been frustrating to many in the city government and the public who want to alleviate the doctor shortage.

Previous proposals have laid out the conditions by which foreign-trained doctors could be exempted from serving a mandatory local internship after they pass Hong Kong’s medical licensing exam in pursuit of becoming a fully registered practitioner in the city.

Under the latest proposal, overseas-trained doctors working for public institutions such as the Hospital Authority, the city’s two medical schools or the Department of Health would need to work the equivalent of 18 months of clinical service in public hospitals after they pass the licensing exam.

That means overseas-trained doctors would not be limited to clinical service for inpatients in public hospitals, a proposal that was initially raised by frontline doctors last week.

Dr David Lam Tzit-yuen, vice-president of the Medical Association, said the change was made after feedback from doctors.

“Those working in the Department of Health said they did not have [inpatient services], and wondered whether they must go to the authority, which is the only public facility that has inpatients,” Lam said.

Lam said it would be up to the city’s medical schools, the health department and the Medical Council to determine what would be equivalent to the amount of clinical service stipulated in the latest proposal.

He said it was difficult to tell whether the new proposal would pass the council.

“The most important point is whether the Hospital Authority and patients’ groups support this proposal,” he said.

On Friday, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, the health minister, questioned whether the previous proposal would be an attractive option for overseas-trained doctors to stay in the public sector for another 18 months after passing the city’s exam.

She clarified over the weekend, however, that she did not mean it was unattractive to work in public hospitals for 18 months.

Medical faculty at Chinese University criticised the previous plan for poorly representing the work of medical schools. An official at University of Hong Kong’s medical school also said doctors working there needed to do clinical treatments and scientific research, as well as teach.

Tim Pang Hung-cheong, a patients’ rights advocate with the Society for Community Organisation, expressed reservations about the latest plan, saying the new adjustment was minor.

He said overseas-trained doctors working in Hong Kong’s medical schools or in the health department might need to work in those public institutions for longer than 18 months if the proposal was adopted because they usually do not spend all their time on clinical services.

“This does not give equal treatment to all doctors,” Pang said.

He was also concerned there might be disputes in how to define work equivalent to clinical services in public hospitals.

The authority said it would keep in touch with different stakeholders.

A spokeswoman said: “We hope the meeting of the Medical Council next month can pass a plan that is fair, reasonable and accepted by different parties so that the Hospital Authority, the Department of Health and the two local universities have an equal arrangement.”

A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said the government hoped the proposal to relax the internship requirements would be “the looser the better”, adding that it should still stick to the principles of fair and equal treatment for all.


Category: Hong Kong

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