Should we employ overseas doctors to tackle manpower shortages?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2011, 12:00am


Gabriella Wong, 16, Diocesan Girls' School

To employ overseas doctors to tackle manpower shortages is unnecessary and unwise.

Over the past 13 years, the number of doctors in public hospitals has increased by almost 40 per cent. Helped by modern technology, the workload of many doctors has been greatly reduced.

Take, for example, the number of days patients spend in hospital.

The total number decreased from 6.2 million in 1998 to 5.3 million in 2010. This shows that the workload of doctors has been reduced by 16 per cent. Hence, there's no need to import doctors from overseas.

Manpower shortages are the result of an uneven distribution of resources across the territory's hospitals.

For instance, a patient in New Territories West needs to wait for more than 92 weeks for an appointment at the ear-nose-throat department. A patient in Kowloon Central needs to wait only one week.

There is a similar situation in ophthalmology. A patient in Kowloon needs to wait 135 weeks for an appointment, while in Kowloon West, a mere six weeks will suffice. The solution is not to add more doctors; we need to do a better job of allocating resources.

Also, many patients in public hospitals come from traditional cultural backgrounds. They may not be able to establish a good understanding with foreign doctors.

I believe we can solve the manpower shortages in public hospitals through good management of our existing resources.

Janet Lau Hiu-ming, 17, Tsung Tsin Christian Academy

It is no secret that Hong Kong's public hospitals are suffering from a manpower crisis. In order to alleviate the problem, the Hospital Authority has decided to bring overseas doctors to work here. I wholly agree with this decision.

The shortage of doctors has plunged public health care into a crisis. In recent years, doctors have been working long hours.

This has affected both their performance and the quality of health care. According to a poll by the Public Doctors' Association, 80 per cent of the more than 700 respondents said that working long hours has affected their medical judgment.

The lack of resources and staff shortages has created a vicious cycle. The increase in medical blunders at public hospitals in recent years could be related to staff shortages in our public health care system.

The quality of Hong Kong's healthcare system is ranked one of the best in the world. Some argue that an overseas recruitment drive without a licensing exam could compromise service quality.

In fact, contrary to popular belief, overseas applicants are thoroughly evaluated by the Medical Council before approval.

A supervision mechanism will also be implemented to uphold the standard of health care services in public hospitals.

We should also remember that many Hong Kong doctors were trained overseas.

We will all benefit from an influx of highly trained foreign health care professionals. The Hospital Authority should employ overseas doctors to tackle shortages in our hospitals.