My Take

Doctors mistaken if they think they can fool the public

Opposition to reform of the Medical Council, on grounds of political interference, simply doesn’t wash with man in the street

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 July, 2016, 10:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 July, 2016, 12:28am

Public trust is in short supply in Hong Kong. The controversy over the government’s bill to reform the Medical Council is a case in point. Few social relations are more important than that between doctors and patients. But while survey after survey has shown that doctors remain the most trustworthy profession in Hong Kong, respect for the medical profession is not what it used to be.

Repeated media exposure of medical blunders has not enhanced public confidence. Long delays in cases against medical malpractice, however outrageous, have cast doubt on the credibility of the council. Routine overcharging at private hospitals and by private doctors has made the profession particularly notorious.

Hong Kong is ailing from an attack of selfish doctors

So while some doctors’ groups may think they have public support in opposing the government, they don’t necessarily. They may or may not have a point against the proposed reform as a back door for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to exert control over the medical watchdog; it’s just as likely they are motivated by a narrow interest in avoiding greater transparency and accountability to the public.

“Would you rather trust Leung Chun-ying or doctors?” one of their representatives asked on television while protesting outside the Legislative Council as lawmakers were debating the bill this week.

Well, many people distrust the chief executive and his administration, but this doesn’t mean they trust the protesting doctors.

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In any case, the medical sector itself is divided on the government’s reform bill. Both medical schools at the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University support the government, as does the powerful Academy of Medicine and patients’ rights groups.

The reform measures also do not seem particularly extreme or unreasonable. These include adding four appointed lay members to the council by expanding the membership to 32 and changing two appointed positions to elected ones, to be voted on by the academy, the specialist school for doctors.

Those new extra seats would be filled by three members elected by patients’ groups and one nominated by the Consumer Council. So their appointment by the chief executive would be more a formality than one of executive decision.

If the opposing doctors have demonstrated one thing, it is this: it’s no longer enough to rally against the government just because it is unpopular or even hated. The public can always spot a vested interest or an ulterior motive.