Private doctors would be subject to tough government control under a proposed licensing system aiming to set standards for clinics' equipment, hygiene and drugs and medical records management. Secretary for Health and Welfare Yeoh Eng-kiong recently consulted medical leaders about the Government's Green Paper on health-care reform. It included a ground-breaking regulatory system for clinics, which may come in a form of licensing. It is understood Dr Yeoh is concerned some clinics are primitive - some have no wash basins or examination couches. Insiders said the proposed licensing system would help to deter 'black-sheep doctors' selling dangerous drugs by setting limits on drug stocks. 'The new system will make sure clinics are in good shape, with appropriate equipment and drug storage system,' a source said. About 4,000 private clinics are not supervised by health authorities. The Department of Health conducts regular checks on the 12 private hospitals and monitors 87 clinics run by non-profit making organisations, while the Medical Council deals mostly with patients' complaints. The proposed changes follow criticism in the Harvard Report on health-care reform over the lack of supervision of medical services. President of the Hong Kong College of Family Physicians Dr Donald Li Kwok-tung welcomed the plans. 'At present, there is no monitoring in private clinics,' he said. 'A doctor can set up a clinic anywhere he likes and there is no one to inspect it to make sure it is up to standard. There should be some monitoring on clinics' equipment, hygiene and their management.' Dr Li said the plan also would help doctors make tax claims. 'The clinics can be registered as a business so doctors could deduct expenses and salaries from the revenue,' he said. Society for Community Organisation director Ho Hei-wah supported a licensing system for private clinics, saying it would help improve health-care standards. But Medical Association vice-president Dr Lo Wing-lok said a new licensing system was unnecessary. 'Doctors hold ultimate responsibility. It is difficult to supervise all areas in the profession. Otherwise, the profession will lose flexibility,' he said. 'We think there is enough monitoring of doctors and there must be some trust in doctors.' The College of Family Physicians started a primary care doctor certification scheme earlier this year. Doctors who join the scheme are given a certificate if they pass an exam which assesses medical skills and clinical standards. But the programme has been opposed by doctors, with only 10 having joined.