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Tuesday, November 15, 2016, 00:05

Discussion on reforming Medical Council to begin

By Joseph Li

HONG KONG - As the tripartite platform for discussion of the reform of Medical Council of Hong Kong opens today (Tuesday), members of the Legislative Council and a patient group hope they can debate the issues thoroughly.

They aims to rectify misunderstandings and introduce the relevant bill into the legislature again in the near future.

They hope the bill will be passed soon in the best interests of patients after it was “dragged to death” by filibusters in the final days of the last LegCo in July.

Members of the Legislative Council and a patient group hope they can debate the issues concerning the reform of the Medical Council thoroughly

The platform, convened by the government, comprises six members apiece from LegCo, the medical sector and groups which protect patient rights.

On Saturday, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said he felt all sides wanted to reach common ground, which would enable introduction of the bill into LegCo in early 2017.

A member of the tripartite committee, Liberal Party lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan initiated a private member’s bill to reform the medical watchdog until it was taken over by the government.

He envisaged there would be little or no changes to the bill except a few technical amendments, and said it should have been carried in July. Cheung criticized then medical constituency lawmaker Leung Ka-lau and the Civic Party’s Kwok Ka-ki, also a doctor, for delaying the bill in defiance of the public interest.

He said the bill was “killed” because it was debated in the final month of the 2016 legislative session - but not earlier. Cheung said he was confident it would be passed in the current four-year term.

Another committee member and lawmaker Chan Han-pan, from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, hopes the committee will discuss these issues thoroughly. He hopes they can clarify misconceptions such as the loss of professional autonomy and influx of unqualified doctors from the Chinese mainland and foreign countries.

“The bill that we vetted in July was acceptable as it contained only moderate changes. These included increasing four lay members to sit on the Medical Council. In my view, additional lay members are credit-worthy and enhance people’s trust in the watchdog body,” he added.

Tim Pang, a community organizer with the Society for Community Organizations, which takes care of patient rights, supports the increase in the number of lay members. This is because it enhances public accountability of the Medical Council.

He added that despite the proposed increase, the ratio of lay members is still low at about 15 percent. In some other places, lay members constitute 25-50 percent.

He also backs extension of registration of overseas doctors from one to three years to ease the shortage of doctors.

Henry Yeung, another tripartite committee member and president of Hong Kong Doctors Union, supports the reforms in principle. He is not against more lay members, but suggests more doctors should be added to facilitate quicker preliminary proceedings of medical complaints.

Louis Shih, former president of HKMA, who is more open-minded to reform than many association members, said the association should not nominate Leung Ka-lau as tripartite committee member - given his previous involvement.

In his view, doctors should adapt to changes as a growing trend, while the purpose of what they call professional autonomy is to serve the rights of the public, not doctors.

joseph@chinadailyhk.com
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