The government should change the law to increase the number of council members on the doctor’s watchdog to speed up disciplinary hearings against medical practitioners, said Dr Gabriel Choi Kin. Choi, a member of the Medical Council and chairman of the preliminary investigation committee, made the comment following a court case yesterday in which a judge slammed the Medical Council’s handling of complaints against a paediatrician accused of causing an infant’s finger to be amputated in 2009. In a strongly worded judgment, High Court judge Mr Justice Kevin Zervos ordered the council, its chairman and deputy chairman to quash their decision to dismiss the family’s second complaint and review it again. READ MORE: Readying watchdog for major surgery: Joseph Lau “We respect the court’s decision,” Choi told an RTHK programme this morning. “We will appoint a new chairman and vice-chairman of the committee to start a preliminary investigation as soon as possible.” Choi said the committee formed by eight council members had to conduct preliminary reviews of 300 to 500 complaints against doctors every year, many of which he said were trivial and groundless. For example, he said many complaints were made about the attitude of doctors. He also said there were over 100 about Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man, who is a doctor by profession, being late at functions. On average, the committee processes around 14 cases a month. A disciplinary hearing will be launched if the committee believes there is enough evidence that professional misconduct is involved. “It really takes time for us to process all these cases, even if many of them are trivial and groundless. If we want to speed up the procedure, we have to increase the number of council members.” Choi said. READ MORE: Medical Council could face major surgery as government plans reforms He said increasing the number of council members would allow two hearings to be held at the same time, speeding up the process of handling complaints. The change would require amendments to the Medical Registration Ordinance. Last July, the South China Morning Post reported that the Food and Health Bureau had approved “in principle” a reform proposal submitted by the Medical Council, which included increasing the number of lay people on the council from four to 14, in an effort to share the workload. But details of the reform plan are still being drafted. Council chairman Professor Joseph Lau Wan-yee estimated that the change could save up to 10 months on the average waiting time of 38 to 40 months for a case to be heard.