Course an alternative to hospital-based training
Doctors are being encouraged to undertake vocational training in family medicine under a new programme aimed at upholding standards.
Amid a shortage of trainees, the College of Family Physicians has turned to vocational training of doctors so they can achieve a specialist qualification after a six-year programme.
At present the six-year specialists' training includes two-year mandatory hospital training.
The college hopes that the new programme can provide an alternative to the hospital-based training so practising doctors can join.
The proposal, endorsed last month, will be presented to the Academy of Medicine, the top training body for specialists, for consideration.
The three core elements of the vocational training are consultation skills, emergency medicine and health services for the elderly.
The college is also liaising with the academy to shorten the overall specialists' training period from six years to three or four years, in line with overseas practice.
College president Gene Tsoi Wai-wang said the vocational training would not cause too much disruption.
'The new vocational training provides a path for the practitioners to be trained up as specialists. The current mandatory hospital training is not suitable for practitioners who are running their own clinics,' he said.
Using government statistics and the Harvard Report on health-care financing in 1999, the college estimated that Hong Kong people consulted doctors an average of 6.17 times year, with a range of 3.73 to 9.1 times. This consultation rate included visits to Western doctors and Chinese practitioners.
The mean annual consultation rate for people consulting primary care doctors was calculated at 4.71 consultations per person, with a range of 2.85 to seven consultations. The desirable average duration of a consultation is 10 minutes.
The college then projected that Hong Kong needed more than 2,700 primary care doctors.
It would take Hong Kong 26 years to train all primary care doctors as specialists in family medicine, assuming an annual output of 100 specialists.
Tsoi said there was no golden family medicine specialist-to-population ratio but the global trend was that all practising primary care doctors needed some training in family medicine.