Overseas doctors recruited to work in public hospitals without having to pass the local licensing examination will be given only one-year contracts and will receive the same pay as local doctors.
The recruitment exercise is the first of its kind to be introduced by the Hospital Authority to tackle its manpower shortage.
It is aimed mainly at overseas-qualified Hong Kong people who are practising abroad.
Cantonese proficiency is stipulated for posts requiring frequent contact with patients.
The scheme has had modifications introduced to make it more acceptable to local doctors, who have hotly opposed it. It will go before the Hospital Authority board for approval on Monday.
'We understand that a group of Hong Kong people practising in the UK or Australia, for example, are keen to return,' a person familiar with the scheme said.
'The positions can offer them an opportunity to work here while they can prepare for the local licensing examination to get a full licence.'
The overseas doctors, employed on 'limited registrations', will be exempted from the Medical Council licensing examination and a one-year internship, but will be allowed to work only in public hospitals and clinics.
The authority had previously planned to hire plastic and cardiothoracic surgeons from overseas first, but under the modified plan the posts will cover all specialities.
The person familiar with the plan said the authority needed doctors with at least three years' experience and postgraduate qualifications recognised by the Hong Kong Medical Council, such as diplomas or certificates.
'The authority does not want to hire doctors for senior posts at this stage, as the local public doctors may see it as affecting their promotion prospects,' he said.
'There will also be no difference [in salaries] between overseas and local doctors.'
Salaries for the medical officer grades open for overseas recruitment range from about HK$49,000 to HK$100,000. Cantonese proficiency does not apply to candidates for posts with less direct contact with patients, such as radiologists and anaesthetists.
The person said some small clinical departments, such as plastic surgery, had only two medical officers on call. 'To these small departments, hiring one or two more doctors can significantly share out the workloads,' he said.
Frontline Doctors' Union council member Dr Ernie Lo Chi-fung said the plan was acceptable as the overseas doctors would not be given any preferential treatment.
'But I don't see the plan as being attractive to those overseas doctors at all,' he said. 'Some are working just 44 hours a week, while workloads at Hong Kong public hospitals are much heavier.'
Public Doctors' Association president Dr Loletta So Kit- ying said the union did not support the plan, saying the licensing examination must be passed to safeguard standards.
Some members of the Medical Council have vowed to reject applications for limited registration from doctors brought in under the scheme saying they fear that the lack of examination assessments will compromise quality of care.
The authority wanted to hire 500 doctors in the last financial year, but was able to employ only 320.
Some medical departments are suffering up to 20 per cent wastage, with public doctors frustrated at long hours and heavy workloads.
The recruitment exercise is the first of its kind to be tried by the authority
The authority intended to hire 500 doctors in the last financial year, but was able to employ only: 320