Doctors on the wrong side of bid to revamp the Medical Council
Medics have for too long blocked attempts to add more lay members to the watchdog, which is a clear infringement of patients’ rights
Doctors have the right to make themselves heard just like any individual in a free society. But those who rallied outside the legislature fighting an amendment bill on their governing body miss an important point. They continue to put themselves above the public and ignore the clamour for opening up a body fraught with self-interests.
The latest twist over the Medical Council’s revamp is typical towards the end of a legislative term. As in previous cases, those upset by the changes step up efforts to scuttle the bill. The strategies include accusing the government of rushing through reform without thorough consultation; undermining the proposals with implausible arguments; and resorting to scaremongering to sway opinion. The situation is further complicated when lawmakers turn their backs on the government at the last minute to score political points.
The reform before Legco has been mooted for nearly two decades. But it is nowhere near implementation because of the profession’s resistance to adding more lay members to the watchdog. Meanwhile, the backlog of complaints and disciplinary hearings on doctors’ misconduct continues to swell. The nine-year fight for justice by a showbusiness couple over the death of a newborn is a case in point.
The suggestion that the council will become vulnerable to the chief executive’s control because of four additional appointees is without grounds. There has even been a warning that the government could force the watchdog to open the floodgates for foreign doctors to work here. But it ignores the fact that the new members are to be appointed after being elected by patients’ groups and nomination by the Consumer Council.
The 110,000 amendments raised by medical sector lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau have been sensibly blocked. But the suspension of yesterday’s Legco meeting on the bill because of insufficient quorum does not bode well for a smooth passage. The bill should be passed as soon as possible, lest negative perceptions of the watchdog prevail.