Legco threatens bill to change medical rules

THE Legislative Council has told the Government to speed up the introduction of amendments to medical regulations or face a private member's bill on the subject.

The amendments will establish new laws requiring all non-local doctors to sit a special examination before being registered in Hong Kong.

The laws were originally proposed as a private member's bill by Dr Leong Che-hung in 1993, when the Government said it supported the laws and would prefer to introduce them as a government bill.

It has failed to do so.

Last week, the Legco House Committee voted unanimously to support the introduction of a private member's bill to install the amendments, after the government bill again failed to appear on the list of business for the summer session.

House Committee Chairman Elsie Tu yesterday met acting Chief Secretary Michael Suen Ming-yuen and warned him that Legco was prepared to go ahead with Dr Leong's bill if the Government did not act.

She said Mr Suen had assured her the Government was fully committed to the bill and would introduce it before the end of the session, probably in June. The final Legislative Council meeting is on July 26.

The principal assistant secretary for the Health and Welfare Branch, Tony Dickinson, said the Government still had every intention of going ahead.

The final draft was almost finished and would soon go to the Executive Council for approval before it was introduced to the Legislative Council. He could not say when it would be introduced but said officials allow time to study it.

Dr Leong said Legco had recognised the situation was becoming increasingly urgent as 1997 drew nearer and it was essential the amendments be in place well before the handover.

The amendments provide for the expansion and increased powers of the Medical Council, including the establishment of a register for specialists, and an assessment of 'fitness to practice' requirements for the territory.

But the most important amendment, according to Dr Leong, provides for the introduction of a standard examination which must be taken by all non-local doctors before they are eligible to practise in Hong Kong.

'This has to be introduced well before 1997,' Dr Leong said. 'We have to have a suitable grace period for people to get used to the examination.' Under the existing medical registrations ordinance, doctors trained in the UK and Australia do not have to take an examination to register.

Dr Leong said it was imperative that a new examination be established so that Hong Kong could set its own standards before the handover.