‘Tyranny of minority’: Hong Kong medical reform bill fails as filibuster blocks Legislative Council vote on final day

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam condemns opposition to reform bill; health minister says it will take two to three months to come up with new proposal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 July, 2016, 3:34pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 July, 2016, 12:48am

The fate of a controversial government bill to reform the city’s medical watchdog was finally sealed with the last session of the current Legislative Council term ending at midnight on Friday.

The Legco medical representative and some pan-democrats managed to block a vote on the bill, which lapsed at the end of the meeting.

It means the Food and Health Bureau will have to work on a new reform proposal for the Medical Council, which licences and disciplines doctors, and introduce it in the next Legco term.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor lashed out at medical representative Leung Ka-lau and some pan-democrats for delaying the final reading of the bill, condemning their opposition as “the tyranny of the minority”.

Lam said the government would immediately study how to minimise the consequences of the bill failing to win endorsement.

Hong Kong medical reform bill drags on Legislative Council backlog

The chief secretary also expressed regret that two other bills to regulate private columbariums and cover fire safety issues did not pass. They were behind the medical reform bill on the Legco agenda.

She said the government would immediately start early preparation work on the two billsso they could be submitted to the next Legco.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said it would take two to three months to come up with a new reform plan, which he believed would remain very controversial. He said the government would have to be “more forceful in pushing it”.

Ko earlier promised a more transparent way to implement the reform, which would see the appointment of four additional lay members to the council, expanding it from 28 to 32 members.

He offered to set up a platform for doctors, patients and government officials to monitor the implementation of the reform, seeking to reassure some doctors who suspected a “hidden agenda”.

The health minister also pledged to improve relations between doctors and patients and rebuild trust within the sector.

Health watchdog reform bill: Hong Kong patients’ groups and lawmakers ask doctors to quit stall tactics as quorum bell keeps ringing

The minister also promised to give extra resources to the Hospital Authority to hire overseas doctors under a limited registration scheme, meaning they are limited to working in public hospitals on a contract basis.

Patients’ Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong repeatedly appealed to opposing doctors for support after a meeting with the government, which promised the reform would help cut the waiting time for watchdog hearings from 58 to 30 months.

But filibustering lawmakers and several doctors’ groups remained unimpressed, worried that the government was aiming to dominate the council with its appointees, undermining its professional independence.

They were also concerned the government would relax qualification exams for foreign and mainland doctors to work in the city, hurting medical service standards.

Dr Choi Kin of the Medical Association, which organised protest rallies outside Legco, said he was not satisfied with the platform proposed by the government as it lacked details.

The final meeting saw many lawmakers remain in the chamber to take photographs after the session ended at midnight.

Nominations open on Saturday for the Legislative Council elections on September 4. The new-look Legco will hold its first meeting in October.