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Thursday, July 7, 2016, 00:27

Debate on medical bill is held up by filibusters

By Joseph Li

The debate on the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016 was held up — after most of the time during Wednesday’s Legislative Council meeting was wasted by different types of filibusters.

Medical constituency lawmaker Leung Ka-lau, who openly admitted he wanted to delay the bill, abused the quorum bell no fewer than a dozen times after the meeting started at 11 am. When the meeting for the second reading of the medical registration amendment bill finally resumed about 6 pm, Leung moved a motion to adjourn the debate. This was in a further attempt to block passage of the bill.

Even when the adjournment motion was being debated, Leung still moved the quorum bell many times just to waste time. In total, he asked to ring the quorum bell 25 times at the meeting.

Analysts believe Leung may wish to stand for re-election in September. Therefore, he is trying to please doctors and to protect their interests — contrary to the wider public interest.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:55 pm on Wednesday night. It will resume at 9 am on Thursday.

The bill mainly aims to add four lay members to the Medical Council of Hong Kong (so the ratio of doctors to non-doctors will be 24 to eight). It also intends to double the number of the preliminary inquiry committee to two to speed up the processing of complaints.

Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor criticized Leung for resorting to such tactics.

“I greatly regret his behavior, which is highly irresponsible,” she told the media outside the chamber. “This is not behavior that should happen in a democratic legislature and he should not delay a government bill, even though he doesn’t like it, in such a rude manner.”

She added that because the current legislative term will expire on July 15, the Legislative Council will have let people down if the medical registration amendment bill and the subsequent private columbaria bill and fire services (amendment) bill are not passed in time.

Joseph Lau Wan-yee, chairman of Medical Council of Hong Kong, said the number of medical complaints will increase, while people’s anger will grow, if the bill is not passed. He said doctors were worried too much that passage of the bill would lower the threshold of doctors wishing to practice in Hong Kong.

Patient groups met the opposition camp on Tuesday, urging them to pass the bill without delay. After the meeting, Pang Hung-cheong, a community officer of Society for Community Organization, said the “pan-democrats” promised to stay there and not to abort the meeting. But they have not disclosed their voting intentions.

Alex Lam, chairman of Hong Kong Patients’ Voices, asked the “pan-democrats” to examine the bill in an apolitical manner. He also said patients groups will not “plant votes” during the future election of their lay members.

joseph@chinadailyhk.com

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