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Friday, July 8, 2016, 20:55

Medical constituency lawmaker delays passage of medical bill

By Joseph Li

HONG KONG - Despite being passed on Friday at the second reading by an overwhelming margin, the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016 could not reach the third reading stage and was deferred to the next meeting on Wednesday – due to lawmakers who opposed the bill employing delaying tactics.

Throughout Friday’s Legislative Council meeting from 9 am to about 1 pm, medical constituency lawmaker Leung Ka-lau – nicknamed “Weird Doctor” for his peculiar and unpredictable style – repeated his cheap trick of filibustering with a view to aborting the meeting through misusing the quorum bell. He and radical lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, as known as “Long Hair”, together asked to count the quorum five times, wasting 53 minutes of the meeting.

The second reading of the bill was passed by 53-8, with four abstaining out of 66 present. Besides Leung Ka-lau, all those who opposed and abstained came from the opposition camp.

Yet after the second reading was passed, Leung Ka-lau moved a motion to set up a select committee to examine the amendment bill with the purpose of wasting time. The meeting was adjourned at about 1 pm while the debate was in progress.

The current legislative term will expire at midnight on Friday, July 15. It is estimated there will still be sufficient time to pass the medical registration bill – which aims to reform the Medical Council of Hong Kong – on Wednesday, as well the subsequent bills that regulate private columbaria and fire service engineering installations on Thursday and Friday before the term lapses.

Before the start of the Friday meeting, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man urged lawmakers to remain in the chamber as long as possible to save the meeting from being interrupted or aborted.

In summing up the government’s position at the second reading, Ko said the passage of the medical registration bill was very pressing. With four new lay members, the accountability of the Medical Council as well as the efficiency of dealing with medical complaints will increase.

Even though four new lay members are added, medical professional members still account for a large majority of the body (24 doctors versus eight lay members). At the request of the medical sectors, two members originally appointed by the government will be elected from the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine thus keeping the ratio of appointed and elected members at 1:1, the health secretary said.

The bill will also allow the Hospital Authority to bring in non-local doctors through limited registration in a more effective manner.

Ko further stressed that the passage of the bill would neither affect the “professional autonomy” of the medical sector nor lower the threshold for bringing overseas doctors into Hong Kong because overseas doctors need to pass licensing examinations administered by the medical schools of two universities in Hong Kong. This will ensure the standard of overseas doctors is commensurate with local medical graduates, while the prospects of local medical students will not be affected.

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