New task force will pre-screen overseas doctors for eligibility for limited practice

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 October, 2011, 12:00am


I refer to the letter ('Overseas doctors should be put to tried and true test of medical standards', October 11).

We would like to reassure the public and your correspondent that the quality and safety of public hospitals have always been our prime concern. It is of paramount importance that we maintain the standard of public hospital services and meet the ever-increasing demand with sufficient competent doctors.

It is why the Hospital Authority has started a new wave of recruitment for both part-time and full-time doctors. This is on top of a series of measures - including additional promotion posts and special allowances to address the extra workload - to retain medical colleagues still working in public hospitals.

But, the shortfall in doctors will last for a few more years, as the number of graduating medical students continues to fall short of the vacancies in public hospitals due to turnover and retirement.

Even with our strenuous efforts to retain existing staff and local recruitment initiatives, we still see the need to source support from overseas doctors with appropriate specialist qualifications, work experience and language abilities.

Although this is not the first time that non-local doctors have been recruited by the authority under the Medical Council's well-established limited registration mechanism, the authority has set up the Task Force of Limited Registration Scheme to scrutinise the qualifications and eligibility of the applicants in this overseas recruitment exercise.

This is by no means a newly invented mechanism to undermine the council's professional autonomy in the assessment and approval of doctors applying to practise under limited registration. On the contrary, the establishment of the task force demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that the overseas applicants can satisfy the prerequisite specialist experience and examination requirements before our submission to the council for a formal review, assessment and approval. To uphold the standard of public hospital services, there is also a monitoring and supervision mechanism in place if these applicants are allowed to work in public hospitals.

Last but not least, these overseas doctors will only be allowed to practise in public hospitals under the limited registration application. If they wish to proceed with private practice or in institutions other than the Hospital Authority, they will still need to sit the council's licensing examination for full registration.

Dr Derrick Au, head, human resources, Hospital Authority