My Take

Hong Kong doctors carrying on like spoilt children

There’s widespread support to reform the Medical Council, yet our professionals seem dead set against even modest changes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 June, 2016, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 June, 2016, 1:08am

When you file 110,000 amendments to a bill in the legislature, it’s hard to see it as anything other than a filibustering attempt.

But lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau, who represents the medical constituency, just wouldn’t call a spade a spade, insisting all his proposed changes were justified. For once, Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing showed some spine in rejecting all of them. The Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill actually had widespread support, both within Legco and in the larger community.

War of words over proposed medical law amendments

Unsurprisingly, it is being fiercely resisted by the medical sector. The bill aims to reform the Medical Council, such as by doubling the number of lay members from four to eight to boost accountability in dealing with patient complaints and investigations into medical malpractice. The proposed change is quite modest, considering there are 30 council members.

Even with eight lay members, the vast majority is still made up of doctors and medical professors.

But this is too much for the medical sector, which has gone into overdrive against the proposed bill.

Like most such appointments in Hong Kong, the lay members are to be named by the chief executive, though in many cases, the appointments are recommended independently and the CE’s appointment is more formal than political. But that’s enough for doctors to claim the government will use its power to interfere with the council.

This argument at least has a semblance of reason. But some doctors, such as those with a group called Medecins Inspires, have resorted to scaremongering.

“Incidents where patients have their kidney stolen during surgery would no longer only be seen on the news but would happen to your friends,” the group’s spokesman, Dr Wong Yam-hong, warned.

The bill would let hordes of unqualified mainland doctors into Hong Kong, he said.

Really, Dr Wong?

Medecins Inspires is sometimes described as being pro-democracy, while Dr Leung is a pro-establishment lawmaker. But on this issue, their political stances are irrelevant. They stand united for the narrow interests of the medical sector.

The CE’s role in appointing members to so many public bodies including universities, a legacy of the colonial era, is something that needs to be addressed.

But that should not be used as an excuse not to reform the powerful regulatory Medical Council and make it more accountable to the public.