A proposed office to handle complaints against medical workers came under fire from legislators yesterday, who said it suffered the same shortfalls as the existing system and would fail to inspire public confidence. As part of health reforms announced last year, the Government proposed setting up a complaints office under the Department of Health to investigate and mediate complaints against medical professionals, including doctors and nurses. The office would also handle complaints against hospitals and government clinics. At the moment, the Medical Council, composed of six doctors and a lay member, investigates complaints and disciplines doctors found guilty of negligence or professional misconduct. But members are often accused of protecting their colleagues' interests above those of patients. According to Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare Gregory Leung Wing-lap, the new office would diversify the tasks and 'create higher transparency to regain public confidence in the complaints mechanism while maintaining professional regulation'. 'Right now the Medical Council is responsible for all four areas of investigation, prosecution, verdict and disciplinary action,' Mr Leung said. '[The proposed office] would diversify the mechanism by handling the investigation and mediation tasks, but hand prosecutions and disciplinary action to regulatory bodies such as the nursing board.' The office would be composed mainly of Department of Health staff and additional professional advice would be sought as needed, Mr Leung said. But Democrat legislator Yeung Sum said the public perception of 'doctors defending doctors' would remain. 'We hoped to set up a separate committee outside the Government,' he said. 'But if it is in the Department of Health, at the end of the day, the public will still be suspicious.' Legislator Dr Lo Wing-lok, who represents the medical sector, also said he was unconvinced the proposed mechanism was conducive to the 'administration of justice'. 'Whether it's independent or not is not the issue, but whether it can take public pressure and political pressure and remain unbiased is the question,' he said. But Mr Leung said an office under the Department of Health would be able to evaluate complaints better than individual regulatory bodies.