Hospitals will get say on recruits
Departments at public hospitals will have a say on whether they take on overseas doctors to address a shortage of manpower.
The new head of human resources at the Hospital Authority, Dr Derrick Au Kit-sing, gave the reassurances after opposition to the government's move to ease examination requirements for overseas doctors.
Some doctors' groups warned that the quality of medical care in the city could be undermined by the changes.
'We won't put a gun to their [departments'] heads and force them to admit the newcomers,' Au said.
Although the authority would have final say on the recruitment process, which would also be approved by the Medical Council, Au said departments' preferences and needs would also be taken into account.
'I have heard both approval [for the plan] and objections through formal consultation and casual chats with doctors,' Au said. 'We'll try our best to organise the new manpower accordingly.'
Overseas doctors will be exempted from taking the Medical Council's licensing examination and will not have to take part in the usual one-year internship.
Instead, a panel of experienced doctors and professors from local medical schools will vet the overseas applicants. Background checks will also be carried out.
Of the 160 doctors who have applied so far, 30 meet the criteria. Candidates must have at least three years' experience and will still have to pass the Medical Council's intermediate specialist examination.
The authority's chief executive, Dr Leung Pak-yin, said it aimed to pick 20 candidates to put forward to the Medical Council. Au expects the names to be submitted by the end of this year.
There are 11,000 fully licensed doctors working in the city.
Au said redevelopment and expansion plans would increase the pressure on the medical workforce.
Three leading hospitals, Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei, United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong and Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam, are set to be redeveloped. A new hospital in Tin Shui Wai is expected to be completed in 2016.
The past year saw 262 public doctors quit. The Hospital Authority needs to recruit 500 more doctors this financial year to replace staff who are leaving and to develop new services, but it expects to be able to hire just 330 largely, because of a lack of qualified local recruits.
Just 260 doctors graduate from the city's medical schools each year. The schools intend to increase the number of graduates to 320, but that will not be until 2015.
Au predicted last week that the proportion of public doctors quitting each year would increase to 6.5 per cent by 2022, from 4.5 per cent. Rates are especially high in oncology and anaesthesia departments, as well as accident and emergency.