Consultants want overseas doctors hired sooner
Consultant doctors at public hospitals have called on the Hospital Authority to speed up the process of hiring overseas doctors, saying the extra hands would help alleviate a manpower crisis.
Their views run counter to those of other doctors who oppose the authority's plan to hire overseas doctors without requiring them to sit for Hong Kong's licensing examination.
An alliance of doctors formed by the Public Doctors' Association, Medical Association and the newly set up Concern Group on Medical Service Standards has insisted that hiring overseas doctors without asking them to sit for a licensing examination would undermine quality and put patients at risk.
Their members sitting on the Medical Council have vowed to reject the authority's applications for limited registration for the doctors.
But a council member of the Public Consultant Doctors Group, Dr Vincent Yeung Tok-fai, said many doctors were in fact very supportive of the recruitment exercise and wanted it done as soon as possible.
The group, representing about 500 consultants and department heads, has invited its members to a forum next week to express their views.
The authority has been suffering from a severe doctor shortage. It needs more than 500 doctors in this financial year but can hire only 330. Currently 260 medical students graduate every year, a figure that will increase to 320 by 2015.
'Overseas doctors may need some time to adjust to the system, but many are good doctors. Overseas doctors are an external stimulus to the local system,' Yeung said.
'The public services are in crisis because of the manpower shortage. The four years ahead will be a hard time before Hong Kong will increase the number of medical graduates. Hiring overseas doctors is an interim measure to solve the manpower shortage. We want the authority to speed up the process and to bring in more overseas doctors,' Yeung said.
He said public hospitals could supervise the overseas doctors, as they did medical graduates, to safeguard patient safety.
Doctors practising with limited registration do not need to sit for the medical council's licensing examination and can be exempted from the one-year internship.
They will be limited to public hospitals.
The authority plans to hire the overseas doctors on one-year contracts and focus on those who can speak Cantonese and have three-year post-graduation experience.
A person familiar with the recruitment exercise says the authority has decided to 'slow down a bit' the pace of bringing in the overseas doctors.
The authority has so far screened out about 20 potential overseas candidates.
It would take at least six months for the first batch of overseas doctors to start work in Hong Kong, given approval by the Medical Council.
'The opposition from the profession is bigger than what we have expected. We want to spend the next few months enhancing other staffing measures before we bring in the overseas doctors,' the person said.
The number of doctors the Hospital Authority needs this financial year, but due to the manpower shortage, only 330 are available