Test overseas medics, doctors say
A petition urging the Medical Council to require overseas doctors working in Hong Kong to pass an examination has been signed by nearly 800 of the city's 11,000 registered doctors.
The letter, by the Allied Concern Group on the Standard of Medical Services in Hong Kong, also condemns a suggestion by Hospital Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk that the council's registration powers be transferred to the Department of Health.
Signed by 777 doctors from private and public hospitals, the petition was passed to the council yesterday as public hospital departments prepared to interview the first 10 foreign doctors selected for admission.
Hong Kong Doctors Union president Henry Yeung Chiu-fat said local doctors were worried about the standard of medical care.
'Overseas doctors might face a lot of difficulties in adapting to the local environment, such as language proficiency,' he said. 'An examination for them is definitely necessary.'
The Hospital Authority is recruiting overseas doctors to address a staffing shortage.
It has reviewed the applications of 160 non-local doctors, of whom at least 29 were found qualified. The overseas doctors will be exempted from a licensing examination that Hong Kong's registered doctors have taken.
Yeung said local doctors were not against the recruitment of overseas colleagues, but a survey of 191 doctors showed a different story.
In the poll, released Monday by the doctors' union, 91 per cent disapproved of overseas recruitment to cope with the shortage. Also, more than 85 per cent disagreed with the proposition that doctor registration should be approved by the Department of Health. The Medical Council, which currently oversees registration, is independent of the government.
'The overall number of doctors in Hong Kong is actually increasing,' Yeung said. 'Public doctors just can't tolerate the heavy workload in public hospitals and go to the private ones. What the government should focus on is to improve public hospitals' working environment, not to recruit more overseas.'
Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said that this year the public sector had lost 6 to 7 per cent of doctors and 10 per cent of specialists, which made overseas recruitment necessary.
He said the overseas doctors employed by the authority would not be allowed to work in the private sector and would be under a specified temporary registration. They would be assessed after a year to see whether they could stay. The authority has also taken on 60 retired doctors part-time to try to ease the problem.
Chow also distanced himself from Wu's suggestion, saying it was Wu's 'personal opinion'. Wu said his remarks had caused confusion. He reiterated that he fully supported and respected the 'pivotal role of the Medical Council of Hong Kong in the assessment and registration of doctors for practice in Hong Kong'.
The number of public doctors who quit in the first eight months this year