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Thursday, July 14, 2016, 23:23

Time running out for medical registration bill

By Joseph Li

HONG KONG - Medical sector leaders and patient groups made last-minute appeals on Thursday for passage of the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016.

However, the bill will likely be aborted as time is running out. Only 15 hours of meeting time remains before the legislative term expires.

At the Legislative Council meeting on Thursday, medical constituency lawmaker Leung Ka-lau, nicknamed “Weird Doctor”, with the help other “pan-democratic” lawmakers who opposed the bill, continued their delaying tactics.

Throughout the meeting from noon to 8 pm, they rang the quorum bell 14 times. This wasted two hours 10 minutes of meeting time.

While the meeting was going, patient groups and medical experts held a joint press conference to call for passage of the bill.

Joseph Lau Wan-yee, chairman of the Medical Council of Hong Kong (MCHK), said he was sad the medical sector is divided over the reforms, adding it is a tragedy that the medical sector is also staying away from the public.

He also said the reforms are only a small step forward. If the bill is not passed this time, he does not know when it will be in future.

Former MCHK chairman Felice Lieh-Mak said some doctors opposed the bill simply out of “protectionism”. She said it was a conspiracy theory to claim the government was intending to manipulate the council through the appointment of four more lay members.

“Doctors are professional people but not politicians and they will not degrade their professional status and duties,” she responded.

Louis Shih Tai-cho, former president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, blasted filibustering as the destructive tool of a small number of lawmakers. These people wish to drag down the whole Legislative Council.

At present, seven Medical Association members sit on the MCHK after nomination by the association’s council members.

Shih once proposed the seven people be elected out of all the members of the association to enhance democracy. But he was forced out of his post because his plan angered some influential people in the Medical Association.

The debate on setting up a select committee to vet the bill resumed at Thursday noon. The government and many pro-establishment lawmakers opposed because it would mean adjournment of the bill.

The motion was vetoed after nearly four hours by both groups of lawmakers from the geographical and functional constituencies.

Alice Mak Mei-kuen, from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, voiced her support for the government bill. She angrily criticized those who opposed it by playing up the “Leung Chun-ying and mainland doctors” factors.

Mak said she also felt very sad so many well-educated professionals were misled by groundless allegations. Although the opposing doctors claimed that many MCHK members are appointed but not elected, she countered that seven members from the Medical Association were also not elected among all doctors.

Liberal Party legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who first proposed a private bill later accepted by the government, said the aim of adding four lay members is to expedite preliminary investigations of medical complaints.

He wondered how this would affect the professional autonomy of the doctors. He also felt unhappy that medical students were misled that the reforms would affect their career prospects.

Wong Ting-kwong, a lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, urged Leung Ka-kau to stop filibustering.

He said it was impossible for the government to yield by reshuffling the agenda. Otherwise, opposition lawmakers will have the upper hand and this will be a disaster.

joseph@chinadailyhk.com

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