Bill to speed up handling of complaints by Medical Council set for Legco in March

Proposal to Legislative Council will call for an increase in the number of assessors from the current 14 to around 100 as complaints mount

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 12:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 12:17am

A bill that aims to speed up the handling of complaints by the Medical Council is likely to be submitted for approval by lawmakers in March, a government source said.

The controversial medical reform bill, which failed to get through the Legislative Council in July last year, would be submitted again after further amendments, the source said.

These would include a significant increase in the number of assessors required to conduct an inquiry, together with council members, from the current 14 to around 100.

The latest plan represents a significant change to the original proposal, which suggested increasing the number of assessors at the medical watchdog to merely 34.

“We have accumulated so many cases now ... If we don’t appoint more assessors, it will be hard to clear the backlog,” the source said.

Current assessors are doctors nominated from five local medical authorities and institutions, and lay persons nominated by the health minister.

It is understood that the scope of the council would likely be extended to other doctors’ groups.

The increase in assessors was included on the agenda of the third meeting of a tripartite platform held on Tuesday.

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The platform, set up last year after the failure to pass the bill, aims to allow lawmakers, representatives from doctors’ groups and patient organisations to offer views on reform.

The failed bill, which proposed increasing the number of appointed members on the council, encountered strong opposition as it upset the current 1:1 ratio of elected and appointed members. The source said the latest bill would likely be submitted in March after the fourth and final meeting of the platform next month.

“We would not submit the bill until consensus has been reached within the platform, which was established primarily for communication between different parties,” he said.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man stressed the inclusion of high-risk patients – an element linked to two proposed requirements in the controversial voluntary health insurance scheme – would not be set aside.

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His comments came after the government confirmed last week that guaranteed acceptance and portable policies, which would require public funds to enable their operation, would not be introduced in the initial stages of the scheme.

“High-risk patients who can’t purchase insurance now would be able to make the purchase only with the high-risk pool,” Ko told a radio programme.

He said he would make best use of the remaining term of the government to renew relevant data and explain the feasibility of the proposal to the public.

But he admitted there was no way the legislation could be completed within the current term.

Ko expected the next administration to fix the detailed arrangements for tax concessions under the proposed insurance scheme.

Additional reporting by Nikki Sun