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Wednesday, June 29, 2016, 00:12

Ko defends plan to reform medical watchdog


HONG KONG — Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man rejected criticisms from doctors that he was pushing too hard with a proposal to reform Hong Kong’s medical watchdog.

The SAR’s largest doctors’ group - the Hong Kong Medical Association called for a sit-in outside the Legislative Council on June 29 to voice their opposition.

The proposal, which will change medical registration regulations and allow the government to appoint four more members to the Medical Council of Hong Kong, will resume its second reading on Wednesday.

Ko hoped the medical professionals will not misinterpret the government's intentions. He said the government would not lower the threshold for doctors from outside Hong Kong as it involves other ordinances and regulations.

This came after fears in the sector that the government will encourage the doctor’s licensing body to relax its exams for foreign or mainland doctors, affecting healthcare standards.

However, Ko said pressure on doctors is growing and patients' complaints are also increasing. According to the Medical Council statistics, a total of over 900 complaints are in need of follow-ups. Thus reform is urgent for the city, explained Ko.

One of the aims of the reform was to add four appointed lay members to the Medical Council. This has triggered concern over whether the government will manipulate the watchdog. Currently the ratio of appointed to elected members is even.

Ko explained that among the four representatives, three will be elected by their respective patients' associations before they get appointed.

"Apparently the government cannot control the representatives", Ko said. He added that the other 10 previously appointed members in the Medical Council had followed the same rule.

The move was to address ordinary people’s concerns, Ko reiterated.

The government has also vowed to shorten the average waiting time for a hearing of a medical complaint from 58 months to 24 months.

In another statement released on Tuesday, Public Doctors’ Association said it regretted seeing the government trying to pass the bill without thorough discussion with the sector and the public.

Currently, a majority of lawmakers could pass the bill despite opposition from the medical sector.

On Saturday, medical sector lawmaker Leung Ka-lau’s filed 110,000 amendments to the bill, but these were rejected by the LegCo President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.

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