Let doctors adopt voluntary scheme
The Hong Kong Doctors Union read with interest your editorial of August 2 headlined 'Physician, heal thyself', regarding continuing medical education (CME).
In 1999, the union wrote to medical authorities in Australia (Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia and Victoria), Canada, Germany, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand and Sweden. All indicated they did not have mandatory CME and did not link CME accredited points with a licence to practise. Presently such linkage applies only to doctors paid by the government in welfare states such as those under the National Health Service in the UK. Doctors are not required to undergo mandatory CME on the mainland.
Hong Kong doctors upgrade their knowledge on their own initiative, through, for example, seminars, discussion groups, video sessions, and journals, because they want to be better equipped and more capable in managing patients. Being officially forced to undertake this upgrade would invite groundless suspicions of incompetence from the public and would tarnish the image of doctors.
We have all along advocated the awarding of certificates after obtaining a required number of CME points annually. Doctors could then use the words 'CME certified' alongside their names on plaques and visiting cards. This is a move accepted officially by the Medical Council of Hong Kong. The council could require all doctors, specialists and non-specialists, to prominently display annual practising certificates giving an indication of the CME points which had been earned.
For example, there could be a yellow coloured symbol with the annotation 'adequate CME attained' and a white one for 'inadequate CME'. The council would be making a grave mistake if it removed a doctor's right to practise because that physician had not gained enough CME points.
There could be a variety of reasons why a physician could not attend enough CME activities to get the required number of points.
Dr HO OCK-LING
Hong Kong Doctors Union