Responsibility lies with the medical profession, insists association head The head of the Private Hospitals Association has defended his group's 12 members in the alleged kickback scheme where family doctors accept part of specialists' fees for sending them patients, with the collusion of hospitals. The two colleges for general practitioners and surgeons meanwhile admitted they could not be certain all doctors were untainted, while stressing the practice was not condoned. Association chairman Walton Li Wai-tat said responsibility lay not so much with hospitals but with the medical profession and how the Medical Council viewed kickbacks. 'Whatever happens between a GP and a specialist is an issue' of concern, said Dr Li, who is deputy medical superintendent of Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital. But he did not believe hospitals were offering sweeteners, such as subsidised accommodation. The South China Morning Post reported on Thursday some family doctors were suspected of accepting a third of specialists' fees for sending patients their way. Some private hospitals were said to be offering sweeteners to specialists to ensure a steady flow of patients, who remain oblivious to the inducements. On Tuesday, the Medical Council appealed to people to come forward if they had information about doctors taking kickbacks. Dr Li said yesterday the association would discuss the issue at its next meeting. 'We do not condone the practice. Whatever transpires among doctors is not known to hospitals. I do not think any hospital would knowingly do it,' he said. Patients' Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong said the council should not simply wait for complaints but go out of its way to find erring doctors or hospitals. 'I do not think a code of practice is enough. It is just a piece of paper and if not enforced, it is meaningless,' he said. The president of the College of Surgeons, Samuel Kwok Po-yin, condemned the practice. 'These are things considered unethical in the profession. We should not allow this to happen. Whether there are reported cases like that, we have not received reports but we can't say for sure,' said Dr Kwok, a private general surgeon. College of Family Physicians president John Chung Tze-nang said the report of kickbacks 'came as a real shock'. 'We do not know who these doctors are. You cannot assume that they are our members,' he said. 'It is the duty of the profession to expose and tell on these individual professionals.' The Department of Health reminded hospitals that the Independent Commission Against Corruption had issued guidelines entitled 'Integrity in Practice - A Practical Guide for Medical Practitioners on Corruption Prevention'.