Medical Council can be more open on licensing HK doctors who trained abroad

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2012, 12:00am


The discussion on limited registration for Hong Kong citizens who have trained in respected medical schools abroad has gone quiet but it has not and must not be allowed to go away.

It is a scandal which does no credit to the medical profession here, puts patients at a disadvantage and is unfair to Hong Kong citizens wishing to be medical professionals and to their parents who have financed their education abroad.

My purpose in writing is to make constructive suggestions that may help solve what is obviously a serious problem.

The Medical Council is responsible for standards in medicine in Hong Kong. It is not responsible for manpower planning. It is therefore not charged with regulating the number of doctors on the register.

Although ensuring that new registrants are of a sufficient standard can be achieved by a licensing examination, this is not the most cost-effective method and is open to abuse as a means of restricting registration by certain sectors of the profession for their own benefit.

While an exam may be justifiable for graduates of doubtful quality, there is a case for accepting a number of British and US medical school graduates as being of equal standing to those from Hong Kong's medical schools. But if it is thought overseas training leaves graduates with insufficient local knowledge then the system used in Australia is worth considering. Overseas graduates are required to do an internship, the final part of their training, in Australia. Successful completion entitles them to full registration.

If the council considers the licensing exam is essential, there should be two sittings per year.

Candidates who do not satisfy the examiners should be told about their weaknesses and overall pass/fail rates should be kept under review so that necessary action can be taken to avoid the appearance of discrimination against overseas graduates.

Using the licensing exam to bar the city's own flesh and blood from working for local people makes no sense and can only harm the reputation of our medical profession.

I hope the council will consider my suggestion when formulating future policy.

By adopting a more open and less protective attitude on licensing of overseas doctors, the council would be looking after the public interests of Hong Kong people.

It would contribute a great deal to reducing criticism, which labels the medical profession as being selfish and protective.

Dr Derek Li Seung-yau, specialist in psychiatry, Central