Let private hospitals train specialists, top medic urges

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


A former top public hospital executive, recruited by a global health care company bidding to build new private hospitals earmarked for two sites in Hong Kong, has called for the private sector to be allowed to train more specialists.

Dr Loretta Yam Yin-chun, who retired last year as chief executive of the public Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan, said this would help address a staff shortage that she calls the biggest challenge for the medical sector.

Yam, with 40 years' experience, is a key member of the team drafting Fortis' proposal for the sites in Wong Chuk Hang and Tai Po put up for tender by the government in April.

She joined Fortis a few months ago as medical director for hospital development. If the bid succeeds she will manage the hospitals together with obstetrician Louis Chan Yik-si, who has also joined the team.

'In the USA, the best training for specialists comes from private hospitals. But in Hong Kong the public hospitals get all the funding from government to train specialists,' she said. 'I would be happy to see some private hospitals in the city eventually qualify to do some training, research and cutting-edge treatment.'

She says the tender she is helping to draft for Fortis - operator of the Qualify Healthcare chain of clinics - leans in this direction.

A qualified specialist in Hong Kong has to achieve an undergraduate medical degree before going through a six-year postgraduate training programme offered by different colleges in the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine.

This includes taking up specialist training posts mainly in public hospitals, although in recent years the private Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital has been qualified to take on certain training programmes approved by some colleges.

There are now 52 specialties in the city and public hospitals are facing a severe shortage of specialists, particularly in obstetrics, paediatrics, ophthalmology, surgery and internal medicine, while critics say public hospitals lack experienced doctors to train new people.

After spending decades fighting to stop talent leaving to private hospitals, Yam says the public hospitals have too few specialists, 'but the private sector in general is OK'.

She said the duty of training new professionals should be shared by private hospitals, which can provide sufficient experienced doctors to nurture the new blood.

'The supply of specialists is still not enough, not only on the local level,' she said. 'A brain drain in the medical field has become an international trend.'

The private Union Hospital in Tai Wai has expressed interest in the site at Wong Chuk Hang, Aberdeen, while Chinese University hopes to develop a hospital in Tai Po.

The deadline for submissions is July 27.