Rethink on council rules to save vote on foreign docs

Top News | Jane Cheung 8 Apr 2019

The Medical Council of Hong Kong will consider changing its internal rules so that it can retable the topic of relaxing requirements on overseas doctors for them to practice in the city, says member Gabriel Choi Kin.

This comes after an outcry over the council's decision last week to reject all four proposals to import foreign doctors, including relaxing the internship training period for overseas practitioners.

The existing house rules say a topic cannot be retabled for six months after it is vetoed by the council.

But Choi said some members wish to reopen negotiations on the topic and may propose changing the rule.

"It's obvious that members want to discuss the topic again. I believe the legal consultants will figure out a way to retable the issue," he said.

Choi, who is also a former president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said he was shocked by the result but insisted it should be respected.

He said all four options were voted down because of the flawed voting mechanism that required members to vote for or against each option.

"It's a stupid way to vote. It's not logical for someone to support all four options," he said.

If a second voting session is on the cards, he suggested a voting system to allow members to choose one option among the four.

Choi also revealed that he leaned toward the option of requiring foreign doctors to serve at public hospitals for three years after they pass the licensing exam.

After the three-year period, the compulsory one-year internship would be waived and the doctors would officially be qualified to practice in the city.

"It's a reasonable way to ease the manpower shortage in the public health-care system," he said.

Asked if three years would be too long and deter foreign doctors from coming to the city, Choi said the he would hold discussions with the other members on the possibility of shortening it to two years.

However, he said the policy to allow foreign doctors to practice in Hong Kong would not be the ultimate solution for the manpower shortage, adding that he does not believe in the government's expectation of attracting more than 100 foreign doctors.

"I bet there wouldn't be more than 10 overseas doctors coming to Hong Kong," he said. The policy would only appeal to rich people who studied medicine at overseas universities.

He also expressed doubts about the quality of graduates from foreign medical institutions.

"As we all know, some degrees from overseas colleges can be obtained with money," he said. "I've also seen many foreign doctors committing mistakes resulting in hearings by the medical council because they're not familiar with the local medical system."

Choi insisted that local doctors did not oppose the proposals to safeguard their positions.

jane.cheung@singtaonewscorp.com

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