Medical profession should be governed in democratic manner

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 February, 2016, 12:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 February, 2016, 12:15am

The long overdue reform of the Medical Council of Hong Kong has gained momentum.

The government has announced its blueprint, proposing to increase the lay members of the council from four to eight. This would bring the ratio of lay members to professional members (presently numbering 24) from 1:6 down to 1:3.

This may appear to be a straightforward solution to public concerns over the composition of the Medical Council. However, it must be noted that all the lay members would be solely appointed by the chief executive. Together with the existing appointed professional members, the total number of appointed members in the council would rise to 18, against 14 elected professional members.

This would result in a major shift from the current 1:1 ratio of appointed to elected members. With the number of appointed members gaining the upper hand, it is right to ask if the council can act unanimously to safeguard professional standards and the health care system should there be any conflicts between government policies and the public.

The medical profession should be governed in a democratic and transparent manner without compromising its professional autonomy.

Most doctors in Hong Kong are adamant that, despite shortages in public hospitals, the standard of health care should not be compromised through lowering the bar of the licentiate examinations for overseas trained doctors. The council always strives to ensure that scarce health care resources are spent in such a way that taxpayers gain the maximum benefit.

Despite the lengthy time in handling complaints owing to manpower issues, the disciplinary committee of the Medical Council had never refused to take disciplinary action for cases of professional misconduct where it is deemed appropriate.

The professional autonomy of doctors has always been aligned with the interests of the public, not against these interests.

Leung Ka-lau, the legislative councillor representing the medical constituency, has proposed that the number of appointed members and elected professional members of the Medical Council should be increased by six on each side.

Under such arrangements, the ratio of lay to professional members would still be brought to the desired level, maintaining the current 1:1 balance of appointed members and elected members.

I believe his proposal would create further transparency and accountability of the medical profession while upholding the professional autonomy of doctors for the benefit of the public.

Dr Kevin Li, Central