Call to loosen restrictions on importing foreign doctors

Local | Jane Cheung 11 Apr 2019

More lenient proposals to import foreign doctors should be considered, including publicizing the licensing exam syllabus and revision materials, a think tank suggested yesterday.

This comes after the Medical Council of Hong Kong last week rejected all four proposals to give foreign doctors a green light to practice in the SAR, including relaxing the internship training period for overseas specialists.

But Stephen Wong Yuen-shan, the deputy executive director of Our Hong Kong Foundation, suggested even looser proposals than those banned by the council, as the city faces a serious shortage of doctors.

Currently, 1,000 Hongkongers share 1.9 doctors, compared to 3.4 doctors in the United States and 2.4 doctors in Singapore.

"I'd say we need at least 3,000 more doctors at the moment," he said. "To catch up with other developed regions, we even need 10,000 more doctors."

Wong said importing overseas doctor would be a desirable solution to boost numbers in the short term.

"If we don't lower our restrictions, we won't attract many overseas doctors, not to mention a few thousand of them," he said.

Under the existing policies, if a non-locally trained doctor wishes to practice in the SAR, they have to pass a licensing exam.

Wong said the current regulations on foreign doctors is too strict.

He said the passing rate of the licensing examination is less than 50 percent and recommended that the council provide a comprehensive syllabus and revision materials to help candidates prepare for the test.

"For those who pass the SAR licensing exam and had overseas internships, we can waive the requirement of a local internship if they work at SAR hospitals for a certain amount of time," he said.

Wong said unlike the United States, Britain and Singapore, overseas doctors do not see a progression track if they do not pass the licensing exam, which he reckons is an obstacle hindering foreign doctors from coming to the city.

He suggested adding some "non-exam pathways," including waiving the exam for foreign doctors who have been working in SAR hospitals under limited registration for a number of years, or those who graduated from top medical schools in other countries.

He also called for relaxing the requirement for overseas doctors to be registered with foreign medical authorities.

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