Doctors battle for seats on powerful council

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 November, 2010, 12:00am

The latest Medical Council election has become a fight between public and private doctors, as the biggest public doctors' union tries to get its first seat on the watchdog.

The 2,500-strong Public Doctors' Association (PDA) has nominated its immediate past president, Dr Ho Pak-leung, and serving president, Dr Loletta So Kit-ying, to run for two seats in an effort to counter what they say is 'superpower' dominance by private doctors.

They will compete with the president and vice-president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, Dr Choi Kin and Dr Alvin Chan Yee-shing, for the two seats.

Seats on the council, which has the power to punish errant doctors and decide on important policies and matters such as licence approval, are regarded as key positions in the profession.

A war of words has already broken out, with the Medical Association accusing the union of misleading voters by calling it a superpower.

Ho said the Medical Council had long been dominated by the Medical Association, which has seven seats on the 28-member watchdog.

'The HKMA mainly speaks for private doctors,' he said. 'For years, there has been zero representation of frontline public doctors.'

The council earlier endorsed a new policy so its preliminary investigation committee can investigate doctors' misconduct even without receiving complaints.

Ho said in his election material that the new policy was a serious threat to doctors.

'It is dangerous for the council to actively investigate a doctor without any sound evidence or complaints,' Ho said. 'We worry that the council will turn into a tool of political persecution. The council is becoming a superpower and so is the HKMA because it supports this new policy.'

In response to Ho's accusation, the Medical Association sent a message to its 8,000 members earlier this week saying it had never suppressed the voices of public doctors.

It said it had nominated at least four doctors - including two serving public doctors and two former presidents of the PDA - to the council or its committee in recent years.

'It comes as a surprise to us that these doctors, former presidents and council members [current and past] of the HKPDA are considered by the said professor as being unable to represent or to understand the predicaments of our colleagues in the public sector. We do not see our frontline doctors as weak and repressed,' the letter said.

'HKMA nominates colleagues who are hard-working and willing to spend day after day on an inquiry. Our representatives have a track record for doing so.'

The association also said its representatives had actively taken part in movements in pushing for better working conditions for public doctors, such as a protest held in 2008 to call for better remuneration packages for young doctors.

Choi said the duty of the medical councillors was to safeguard the interests of patients and the public, not those of doctors.

All registered doctors in Hong Kong can vote in the election, which will end on Thursday. The two new members will start their three-year term in January.

Of the council's 28 members, 14 are appointed by the government - the four lay members and 10 representatives of various parties, including the two medical schools, Hospital Authority, Department of Health and Academy of Medicine. The other 14 are seven doctors nominated by the Medical Association and seven elected by the profession.

Council breakdown

The government selects 14 of the Medical Council's 28 members

Of the remaining 14, the Medical Council nominates seven, and the profession elects: 7