The local medical sector threatened to go on strike if the government pushes ahead with a reform plan for the Medical Council allowing the chief executive to appoint more than half of the watchdog’s members. The city’s largest doctors’ group was set to meet the Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man next Wednesday to decide whether to escalate its opposition to the plan. The group previously said it supported retaining the watchdog’s professional autonomy. The proposal to add four lay members to the council was announced by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in his policy address on Wednesday, as an attempt to speed up the council’s handling of disciplinary inquiries and improve its transparency. The body had been criticised as a “closed shop” and of protecting fellow doctors. At present, 14 of the council’s 28 members were appointed by the chief executive. READ MORE: Doctors’ leader cautious over more lay members on Medical Council Mr Justice Kevin Zervos of the High Court slammed the council in October last year for its slow handling of a complaint against paediatrician Dr Alvin Chan Yee-shing, who was accused of causing an infant’s finger to be amputated. It took two years for the council to rule against the complaint. Zervos criticised the process as “protracted and cumbersome”. While the medical sector agreed that the council urgently needed a revamp to restore public confidence, it rejected the government’s proposal on the grounds that it would let the government exert control over the body and undermine its independent and professional role. Dr Choi Kin, council member of the Medical Association, stated: “The ratio of appointed and elected members has to be maintained at 1:1. In this case four more elected members should be added. The ratio must not be disturbed.” Around 9,000 members of the group were invited to express their opinion on the reform. Members of the association were to discuss possible strikes or rallies at its extraordinary general meeting on February 6 if the government insisted on adhering to its original plan after meeting with the medical sector next Wednesday. Dr Pierre Chan, president of the Public Doctors’ Association, warned: “The government can do whatever it wants to the medical sector when it has the numbers to pass a proposal.” READ MORE: At last, there is a plan to reform Hong Kong’s Medical Council “The independent and professional role of the Council would be undermined,” Chan said of the government’s plan. Dr Alfred Wong Yum-hong, of Medecins Inspires, another professional group, believed that rejecting the government’s plan would be in the public interest. “It’s simply against the public interest to have the medical watchdog being controlled by the government rather than by medical professionals,” said Wong. But speaking on Commercial Radio on Friday, Ko countered that there was “no power struggle between the government and the sector” on the proposed reform. “Government is clearly aware of supporting professional autonomy,” he added. Ko said different views would be considered once the bill had been introduced to the Legislative Council. Meanwhile, a separate proposal by medical sector lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau to add 12 members –including six appointed lay members and six elected doctors – was viewed by the sector as the most palatable option to date. Under the plan, the proportion of appointees and elected members would remain the same, while the proportion of lay members would increase greatly from its current 14 per cent to one quarter. Both Chan and Wong, representing the two doctors’ groups, supported the lawmaker’s proposal.