Door slams again on foreign doctors

Top News | Sophie Hui and Jane Cheung 4 Apr 2019

The Medical Council has given the thumbs-down to all proposals to import foreign doctors, including relaxing the internship training period for overseas medics.

Council chairman Joseph Lau Wan-yee said four proposals were discussed at a two-hour meeting yesterday and all of them were denied.

This included waiving the six-month internship period for foreign doctors who have been practicing at public hospitals for three years and have passed the licensing examination.

Another proposal to waive the six-month internship period after the foreign doctors who passed the licensing exam and worked at public hospitals for five years was also rejected.

Lau did not reveal his preferences, but said he had tried his best to persuade different groups. But the voices opposing the proposals remained loud and so he had to follow the majority.

"I have tried my best, and done what can be done," he said.

Lau said one of the proposals was to relax the internship training period for overseas doctors who had already obtained specialist qualifications and had passed the licensing exam.

He said this proposal was the one that had the biggest chance of acceptance, but it still failed "so it would be more difficult for other proposals" to gain approval.

There were opinions that the internship training arrangement of overseas doctors should be relaxed before yesterday's vote, but all proposals were overruled.

"In politics, one's speech is different from the actions sometimes," Lau said. "Many people said they want to relax [the arrangement on overseas doctors] and they want more doctors, but the voting results did not reflect it."

Lau said the council will study again how to solve the doctor shortage. But he said the problem cannot be solved in the short term even if the government has increased funding and there have been more university places for medical students.

Council member Alex Lam Chi-yau said he was disappointed by the results.

"One of the motions was voted down by only one vote," he said. Lam, who is also the chairman of Hong Kong Patients' Voices, said foreign doctors who wish to come to Hong Kong will have to stick to the limited registration program.

"If we would exempt them from the internship, they'd have more motivation to come to the SAR because it's more convenient," he said.

Medical Association president Ho Chung-ping said doctors are generally amenable to exempt foreign doctors from internship but have different opinions on the details.

A doctor currently working at Queen Mary Hospital under the limited registration program said he was also disappointed by the results.

He said intern doctors are usually responsible for administrative work, such as organizing patients' profiles and taking blood specimens from patients.

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