New guidelines for private doctors on dispensing drugs are expected to be in place in the next few days, the head of the Medical Association said yesterday. The association has been working on the system with the Hong Kong Doctors' Union. It follows the blunder of a solo practitioner, Ronald Li Sai-lai, at his Wong Tai Sin clinic in which 152 patients were given a diabetes drug instead of one for stomach problems. Four patients have since died. The association's president, Choi Kin, said on a radio programme yesterday that in drafting the guidelines, the association had borrowed from the experience of the Hospital Authority and Department of Health in ordering, storing and dispensing medicines. He said the association would leave it up to the Medical Council to decide whether to include the guidelines in its codes of practice. Assistants and dispensers of drugs at private clinics would begin to receive training within two months in order to improve their skills, Dr Choi said. He called on doctors to spend more time personally checking pharmaceutical products, acknowledging deliveries and double-checking all drugs to ensure safe dispensing at clinics. He said that communication with patients and continuous medical education were the biggest challenges to general practitioners. 'We encourage continuous education. We have already spent a million dollars to hire four extra secretaries to specialise in organising the courses for the members.' The association will also launch websites to provide the profession with medical documents and information for references. Dr Choi said the association would not object to the separation of drug prescribing and dispensing. He suggested that it be left to the public to choose whether to collect their medicine from clinics. Speaking of the medical mishap at the City Forum yesterday, the president of the Hong Kong Doctors' Union, Henry Yeung Chiu-fat, said it was vital to reinforce surveillance of the dispensing of drugs. He said the name of the drug should also be printed on the pills. 'Then all parties would be clear and the chances of a dispensing mistake would be lowered.' Iris Chan Sui-ching, formerly of the Alliance for Patients' Mutual Help Organisation, said the incident exposed the inadequacy of doctors' self-surveillance. She also said if patients could choose to buy medicines from clinics or pharmacies, it would allow consumers to compare costs.