The Hospital Authority has taken its plan to hire overseas doctors a step further despite strong opposition from local doctors. After interviewing 15 applicants last week, the authority will recommend 10 to the Medical Council to go through the council's screening for registration by the end of the year without having to sit a licensing exam. All speak Cantonese, and several are Hong Kong people who studied and qualified abroad. The authority says the doctors are needed to solve a chronic staff shortage, but almost 800 local medics signed a petition last week calling for them to be required to sit the exam. Of the 10 doctors, six are specialists in anaesthesiology, two in acute and emergency medicine and two in internal medicine. These areas are suffering the greatest staff shortage. Local doctors say the exemption from the licensing examination could jeopardise the quality of medical services, and have expressed concern about difficulties the overseas doctors would face in adapting to the local environment. But authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk (pictured) said the standard had been set very high and he believed it would not be hard for the recruits to integrate into the city as all knew Cantonese. 'Many of them are actually locals who studied and obtained their licences abroad,' he said. 'Our prime concern is to let the public receive timely medical care and to relieve pressure among front-line staff.' The president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, Dr Choi Kin, said it was wrong for the authority to press on with the plan. 'It's against the industry's will,' he said. 'It's not right to eradicate an administrative error that is responsible for the staffing shortage by jeopardising our medical care quality.' The association will meet the authority today on the issue. An alliance against the authority's plan, of which the association is a core member, has received 777 signatures from private and public hospital doctors in a petition to require overseas doctors to pass an examination. The doctors registered through the overseas doctor scheme will be given only a limited licence, which they will have to renew every year. They will not be allowed to work in private hospitals. The authority received 160 applications from doctors overseas and 29 were found to be qualified. A second batch of interviews will be held next year.