New plan to recruit overseas doctors

Local | Jane Cheung 25 Apr 2019

Representatives of medical veterans and patient groups will meet with health minister Sophia Chan Siu-chee today to seek a mutually agreed proposal on importing foreign doctors.

This comes ahead of another Medical Council of Hong Kong meeting on May 8 to vote on the issue, after its members rejected all four proposals earlier this month.

Two of these proposals included waiving the internship for foreign doctors who have passed the licensing exam after working at public hospitals for three or five years.

Medical council doctor member Jeffrey Pong Chiu-fai said he hopes the second voting session will give the public a clear answer on the introduction of overseas doctors.

Speaking on a radio program, Pong, an eye specialist and representative of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said the medical sector has raised a fifth proposal to be included in the vote.

The idea is to require overseas specialists to first work for one-and-a-half years at the Hospital Authority before taking the licensing exam and after passing the exam, they would be required to work for another one-and-a-half years before they can be exempt from an internship.

However, for those working for the two university medical schools and the Department of Health, they would have to stay in these organizations for three and four years respectively in order to have their internships waived.

He said the new option has gained preliminary support from the medical sector and patient groups.

However, the government and university medical schools earlier expressed concern about the proposal being unfair.

Pong said after the four proposals were rejected, council members faced tremendous pressure from the public.

"The suggestion came after we saw a huge manpower shortage at public hospitals under the Hospital Authority, and we wanted to attract foreign doctors to work there," he said.

Some criticized the new proposal - the fifth - as a tool to differentiate medical workers and different medical service providers, but Pong said such an arrangement would make sure that doctors have similar amounts of clinical experience before the internship is waived.

"Working in the authority will gather the most clinical experience in the shortest amount of time, while those working at university medical schools spend half the time on academic research and those at the Department of Health mainly work on administrative matters," he said.

Pong said the earlier four proposals were voted down because there was insufficient discussion before the voting session.

He added that that many members were only notified about the matter shortly before the vote.

"If you look at the voting figures, the meeting that day was attended by 29 members and the sum of supporting votes received by all four proposals was actually more than 29, meaning each member at least supports one option," he said.

"But we use a strict voting mechanism and require the options to only be passed after being supported by half of the members, so all of them were vetoed."

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