Alarm raised after three doctors declared bankrupt
At least three doctors have been declared bankrupt and fears have emerged that more could follow as the economic downturn hits the profession.
Two are believed to be experienced private practitioners, while the third filed for bankruptcy after losing a court case.
The problem was discussed last month by the Medical Council ethics committee, which decided to let bankrupt doctors carry on with their practice.
The committee's recommendation was approved by the full Medical Council at a recent policy meeting, council chairman Dr Lee Kin-hung said.
Chinese University professor Leung Ping-chung, chairman of the ethics committee, said: 'We received a couple of inquiries concerning bankrupt medical practitioners asking us would they be allowed to practise. Those cases did not involve real medico-legal issues.
'We are also aware of a number of undisclosed cases of bankruptcies.
'In a way we are taking a pro-active stand.'
Professor Leung said it was the first time the problem had been raised in the ethics committee, which he has chaired for seven years.
He said the committee reviewed the positions of most medical councils and associations overseas and found that none had stopped bankrupt medical practitioners from practising.
By contrast, accountants, lawyers and architects overseas had barred bankrupt professionals because they handled clients' money, Professor Leung said.
This was the same with Hong Kong lawyers and accountants.
The legislator who represents the medical sector, Dr Lo Wing-lok, said: 'I believe there may be a few more doctors declaring bankruptcy. For example, if a doctor bought an expensive flat, say a $30-million flat, and its value dropped 45 per cent, he will be heavily in debt.'
Dr Lo, who is also president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said the association was preparing an anti-corruption guide for doctors to properly manage their finances.
The guide was being prepared jointly with the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Members would be consulted on the draft guidebook before it was published and sent to all 10,000 Hong Kong doctors by the end of the year. Dr Lo said the Medical Association would stick to its long-standing tradition of rescinding the membership of doctors who had filed for bankruptcy.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Patients' Rights Association, Tim Pang Hung-cheong, said the Medical Council had taken a weak stand and should have issued a strongly worded warning.
'Honesty is a problem with bankrupt doctors,' Mr Pang said.
'The Medical Council needs to state strongly that any bankrupt doctor must maintain their integrity in treating patients.'