One of the most intractable issues in Hong Kong is whether foreign-trained doctors should be recruited for a chronically undermanned public health system responsible for the care of most patients. It is an argument that has gone nowhere for ages while queues and waiting times get longer, often at a cost to health or quality of life. In that respect, it is good that the Executive Council has endorsed the government’s controversial plan to attract about 200 overseas-trained doctors annually to practise in public hospitals, clearing the way for necessary legislation. Ultimately, after five years in the public system, they could go into specialised private practice. To lay people, recruitment of overseas-trained doctors is a no-brainer. After all, Hong Kong owes its success partly to its attraction to foreign talent. But local doctors, whose abiding ethic is to do no harm, remain opposed in defence of professional standards. Subject to proper safeguards for standards, the Post has always seen an element of self-serving in their concerns. The professional standards of overseas-trained doctors would be subject to the same oversight by relevant authorities as for locals. They would be chosen from graduates of medical schools on a list of about 100 assessed as comparable with local counterparts to be compiled by health officials, representatives of the Medical Council and academics. Controversial plan to tackle Hong Kong’s doctor shortage endorsed That said, it is concerning and regrettable that doctors are not convinced, even after the government has agreed to “moderate” modifications of its plan. Practising medicine is not just any occupation. Service lapses and professional blunders can have grave personal consequences for all concerned. Undermanning and overwork are obvious hazards to patient safety. So is dilution of professional standards, if that were to be the price of boosting professional resources. Demand for health services tends to rise to and overtake supply. Striking a balance between doctor demand and supply that puts patient safety first is paramount. That calls for health officials, the Hospital Authority, the Medical Council and doctors to move on and try to make the new system work for the good of health consumers.