Temperatures still raised on foreign doctor imports

Local | Jane Cheung 16 Apr 2019

Less stringent rules to help attract foreign doctors to work in the SAR will be proposed in a private bill tabled by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

Ann Chiang Lai-wan, a spokeswoman for the party on health care, said the bill aims to attract non-locally trained doctors to work in public hospitals. And details of the bill will be revealed tomorrow.

This follows the Medical Council of Hong Kong recently rejecting four proposals to import foreign doctors.

While holding off on details of the bill, Chiang said the proposal will be more lenient than those rejected by the council.

"The council only talked about waiving internships to attract overseas doctors, which is not even appealing to experienced specialists who have more than 10 years of experience," she said. "Our bill will lay out more incentives to lure doctors to serve in public hospitals."

Asked if tabling a private bill on the issue affected the autonomy of the council after its chairman, Joseph Lau Wan-yee, said last week that he would seek to revive the discussion of importing doctors at a meeting on May 8, Chiang said the bill does not intend to limit the council's power to approve applications for licenses.

"We're not proposing to take back or reduce the council's power," she said. "Nor do we want to compromise on the quality of doctors."

Chiang added that the quality of service at public hospitals is unsatisfactory, citing an example of an eye specialist having to examine 40 to 50 patients in one morning in addition to doing ward rounds and taking on administrative work.

"For most of the time a doctor can only offer one to two minutes for each patient," she remarked.

Lau noted earlier that the council operates according to powers granted by the law. And legislators could table bills to reduce its power if they were not satisfied. But Chiang said the DAB bill was not a response to Lau's words as the party had been planning for months on boosting the number of doctors.

Questioned on whether the bill would cover mainland doctors, she asked people not to speculate and said the intention was simply to import qualified doctors.

Executive Council member Tommy Cheung Yu-yan hit out at doctors in Hong Kong, saying they were trying to "humiliate" foreign physicians by requiring them to take an exam in order to practice in the SAR.

"All over the world, doctors at different stages take different exams," he said. "If we have the same exams for locally trained specialists - yes, by all means, foreign-trained specialists should be taking the same exams."

jane.cheung@singtaonewscorp.com

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