Don't be fooled by local doctors' gripes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2012, 12:00am


Many local doctors who spent half their life in school to qualify for their licence to practise medicine think they have the God-given right to milk the system for the rest of their lives. Under the guise of protecting local standards, doctors in private and public sectors have fought the Hospital Authority's moderate scheme to import overseas doctors to counter a severe shortage.

Now, despite fierce opposition from the Medical Association, the Medical Council has authorised the Hospital Authority to hire nine overseas doctors to work in public hospitals.

The number is so small it is nowhere near meeting the authority's real staffing needs, but still, it is better than nothing.

Association representatives say they are worried about the qualifications and experience of overseas doctors; the lowering of standards could compromise the quality and safety of patient treatment. They also argue that foreign applicants should be made to take qualification exams administered by the council.

It's reassuring that the association's doctors take such a noble stance; it would be more helpful if they try to enforce medical ethics among some of their colleagues, whose first priority sometimes seems to be lining their own pockets rather than taking care of their patients.

Because of their strong opposition, the authority has been forced to compromise. The doctors must be hired on short-term but renewable contracts. All nine 'foreign' doctors are actually Hong Kong-born, but will be barred from entering the private sector lest they create competition there. Such tough terms make it difficult to hire the most talented overseas doctors.

Even with increased capacities, the two medical schools cannot produce enough doctors. Importing overseas talent is essential to fill the gap. Let's work out ways to hire the best qualified doctors rather than putting up self-serving barriers.