Call for calm as foreign doc issue rages

Top News | Jane Cheung 15 Apr 2019

"Rational discussions" are needed on the import of foreign doctors, Health Secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee says. This follows the Medical Council's rejection of proposals this month to allow in foreign doctors, which sparked public outrage and calls to further reduce the power of doctors on the council.

Council chairman Joseph Lau Wan-yee said on Thursday he would seek to revive the discussion of importing doctors at a meeting on May 8.

Additionally, the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and also the Democratic Party have said they would consider tabling a private bill to change the law and to relax the bar on foreign doctors.

But Chan said yesterday revising the law would be time consuming, noting: "We amended the law last year to change the duration for limited registration from one to three years. We believed it could attract more foreign doctors to return to practice.

"Under the circumstances, we've also allocated more resources to the Hospital Authority so it can hire more overseas doctors through limited registration."

She said the authority is revising work arrangements for foreign doctors, including enhanced training and promotion opportunities.

Asked if she agrees with reducing powers of the council as some parties suggest, Chan said it is an independent organization that operates under its own rules.

Still, she said, "we need to unite and work together to bring in more doctors regardless of whether they were trained locally or overseas."

Not only should the SAR import foreign specialists, Chan said, but it should also consider introducing doctors with less experience, including fresh graduates from medical schools, and then provide training "so they can become specialists."

Some council members are said to be in favor of a meeting as soon as possible to vote again on proposals to import foreign doctors as public grievances against the council continues to build.

One member pointed to doctors' reputations being hurt after the council thumbed down four options to allow overseas doctors to practice in Hong Kong.

It is understood a petition to tell the council to call another meeting to discuss the matter again is in the works.

But some doctors believe political parties are making a fuss about foreign doctors to gain support for elections.

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