• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 1:19am
NewsHong Kong

Outgoing Hospital Authority chief advocates importing overseas doctors

Anthony Wu says a chronic shortage of doctors in the public sector requires an influx of manpower from abroad

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 November, 2013, 11:22am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 November, 2013, 2:17pm

The outgoing chairman of the Hospital Authority Anthony Wu Ting-yuk said on Friday the government should push for the import of overseas doctors in order to resolve the city's shortage of medical manpower.

Speaking on a morning Metro Radio programme, Wu said he understood the option to recruit medical practitioners from overseas was unpopular with local doctors.

But he said he would continue to advocate in favour of the option, which he believed to be the only solution to a chronic lack of human resources.

“Of course there will be some groups going against the idea,” Wu said. “But this is solely for the service of the citizens.”

“Even as a normal citizen [after stepping down], I will continue to speak out on the matter.”

The city is short of more than 200 doctors in the public sector. The problem will not begin to ease until 2015, when the number of new medics graduating from college should rise from 250 a year to about 400.

Wu raised a similar suggestion in 2011, and it triggered a major crisis in his career at the Hospital Authority.

The Medical Council and frontline doctors demanded his resignation after he suggested qualified doctors from overseas should be permitted to practise in Hong Kong without having to sit the licensing examinations.

Wu is due to step down this month after leading the Hospital Authority for nine years.

Open University president John Leong Chi-yan will replace him from December.



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HK should have allowed the practice of overseas doctors ages ago. What makes the medical council or the authority believe that HK doctors are more superior than say those from North America, UK, Aus/NZ or Singapore? Take North America for example, in order for someone to study medicine, he first needs a bachelor degree from a related subject usually in life sciences and then to get a high score on the MCAT before admission into medical school. It's time for Hong Kong to wake up from their "bubble of self-importance".
Nine years is a long time. What has he achieved in these nine years?
Apart from mixing with the right people, what were his credentials when chosen for the role?
Can a Graduate Medical School help alleviate some of the shortage in future years? Mature candidates who are graduates from different disciplines with a passion to become physicians can be the answer. Duke-NUS in Singapore provides such an opportunity ... and perhaps HK should consider having such a programme too.
Biggest hurdle: vested interest. A doctor doesn't have to wait to see a doctor, nor to pay an exorbitant fee for a brief consultation.
Time for the govt to stand up to the medical council for its super hard, protectionist entrance exams for overseas med grads.
This only came about the last 10-15? years. Before, HkK attracted top specialists from other commonweatlth countries - mostly chinese - who could speak a spattering of Cantonese or other Chinese dialects or Mandarin who joined the public hospitals. They came becoz of the good working conditions, plus of course, the higher pay and better prospects than their home countires.
These days, even grads from OxBrigge - originally from HK - finds it hard to pass the impossibly hard exam , so structured to keep out competition by local docs. Of course, besides the acute shortage in the hospitals and the loss of foreign talent, it is a loss to HK tht many Hongkongers themselves from overseas unis cannot come home to practise...........
Of course, Wu has to take responsibility for allowing this nonsense to happen..... together with the terrible mainland (shuang fei) babies scandal.
I have got a feeling that he is just breaking wind here !
Was he the one who allowed the poblem to escalate ten years ago ?
He slashed the medical budget, didn't he ?
As long as they aren't from the PRC
Opposition from the "very powerful" vested interested group are putting their interest over public interest. It is definitely a protectionism. What a shame to them! Our public sector needs more doctors and more " EXPERIENCED" doctors and relying on local supply is proven not a viable solution. Our public hospitals are already under immense pressure and continuing this situation will simply drive more unsatisfied or overloaded doctors leaving the public sector . HK should allow more foreign doctors to practise in HK public sector, not just for the benefits of the patient but also ensure our young graduates can receive proper mentorship from experienced doctors. C Y Leung has shown a strong will to move ahead in failing HKTV even against the strong public interest, I just wish he can put the same level energy and courage to do something really good for public. despite doctor's objection.
Agree that the market needs to be opened up for qualified practitioners from elsewhere. Our son opted to study medicine in the US because of the closed nature of the market here. Once he completes his program to qualify in the US, a much more rigorous program than HK's, he would need to start over to come back here to practice despite the fact that this is where he was born.
Sticks Evans
The foreign governments should bar Hong Kong medical professionals from working there until Hong Kong reciprocates.Hong Kong is not an open city regarding the medical profession. It will not change until Hong Kong degrees are not honored elsewhere.
Sticks Evans
It is not just doctors, It is all medical professionals who are not allowed in.Thank you for your comment.
Question 1: Are we short of doctors, or are we short of doctors in the public sector?

If it is the latter, then it is a matter of doing something about that big sucking sound of doctors choosing the private healthcare sector instead of the public one. Then we need a carrot (increase public doctor pay, improve working conditions and so on) and stick approach (regulate the private sector more stringently, impose caps, taxes and so on).

If it is the former, then could we start with asking - why? How come our universities collectively don't deliver a sufficient number of qualified medical staff? The medical profession is generally seen as a highly respected, desirable and well-paid job, so what is happening here please? Can't we train more doctors? Can we implement policy to train more doctors, for example by subsidising medical student's education in exchange for a commitment to working in the public healthcare sector for at least 8 years?

Question 2: If (BIG IF) we finally would arrive at the conclusion that importing doctors would be our only hope, then may I carefully ask where we are going to find Cantonese speaking doctors overseas?
And if this problem eases in 2015 (which is <2 year away), how exactly does Mr Wu envision this? Are we expecting overseas doctors to leave their jobs, career, family and everything else behind in return for a 2-year contract in Hong Kong, after which we will tell them to bugger off again?


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