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Lam: Bill soon to allow foreign-trained doctors to practice in HK

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor speaks at the opening ceremony of the Hospital Authority Convention 2021 on May 3, 2021. (HKSAR GOVT)

A bill that allows Hong Kong permanent residents having received medical training overseas to practice in Hong Kong will be submitted to the Legislative Council in late May, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Monday (May 3).

The government has been urged for years to relax the city's stringent medical registration requirements to allow non-locally qualified doctors to practice in Hong Kong in order to ease the pressure on public hospitals. The city's public healthcare system is also under immense pressure from an aging population.

Hong Kong needs at least another 10,842 doctors to meet the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development standard of 3.4 doctors per 1,000 people

"It is no secret that Hong Kong has been facing a serious shortage of doctors, especially specialty doctors. Such shortage has resulted in a tremendous workload for our existing doctors, especially those in public hospitals, and long waiting time for patients," Lam said at a ceremony held by the Hospital Authority.

The city's two medical schools, one each at the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong started adding 30 first-year places each in the 19-20 school year and would continue to do so until the 21-22 school year. Currently, each medical faculty offers 265 first-year places.

Lam said that although additional university places would allow more local doctors to practice locally in the long run, the city needed an immediate solution to tackle an acute shortage of doctors.

Hong Kong currently has 14,290 registered doctors, suggesting 1.93 doctors attend to every 1,000 people in Hong Kong, according to official figures. The mounting workload is seen as a singular reason for hundreds of medical professionals leaving the public sector each year.

Latest data suggest that during 2019-2020, 322 full-time doctors, or 5.4 percent of those on the Hospital Authority's staff, chose to resign.

Hong Kong needs at least another 10,842 doctors to meet the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development standard of 3.4 doctors per 1,000 people.

Currently, non-locally trained doctors are required to pass a licensing examination and show evidence of prior internship experience before they qualify to serve at their home city's public hospitals.

Under the proposed bill, medical professionals with degrees from non-local institutions stipulated by the government at a later date, are to be exempt from the rigorous exam as long as they have worked at a local public hospital for five years.

Lam once again appealed to the city's medical sector - known to be largely opposed to any amendments to the current structure - to support the bill.

(Source: China Daily)

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