Serious questions must be asked about Medical Council's licensing exam

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 November, 2011, 12:00am


Given the present debate about admitting foreign-trained doctors to work in our public hospitals to relieve a serious manpower shortage problem, it was interesting to listen to an item on the radio last week about the licensing exam for doctors conducted by the Medical Council.

I learned that before 1997, nearly all candidates were from the mainland as Commonwealth-trained doctors were exempt. The pass rate was around 20 per cent.

After the handover, the exemption for Commonwealth medics was ended. You would therefore have expected a better pass rate with all those doctors who had trained in such Commonwealth countries as Britain, Australia and New Zealand. After all, nearly all our medical textbooks are from these countries, our teaching methods and training programmes are modelled after them, and we are still sending our young and talented doctors to these nations for advance training.

Strangely enough, the programme revealed that the pass rate this year was a dismal 5 to 10 per cent. Maybe the Medical Council can clarify if these figures quoted on the radio programme are correct.

This absurdly low pass rate is difficult to comprehend. It raises a serious question about this exam for the purpose of basic licensing and not for specialist registration. Is it being conducted in a fair and transparent manner? Is it possible that it is, in effect, a tool used by the local medical profession to bar qualified doctors from practising in Hong Kong, with the profession claiming that it is merely trying to protect the city's citizens?

Hong Kong has always enjoyed a very high standard of medical service, before and after 1997. We benefited from foreign-trained doctors. They brought experience and also broad international perspectives and objectives.

Despite all the objections from the medical profession, I think we should support our government's decision to bring in qualified foreign doctors to serve the people of Hong Kong. I appeal to Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok to discuss the licensing exam with the Medical Council.

They need to discuss its fairness, its level of difficulty, its transparency, the extremely low pass rate, and if necessary, whether it needs to be modified and supervised by the government. The present situation is not acceptable and an improvement is needed.

David Fung Wai-tak, Causeway Bay