Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan has said that the authorities have received more than 20 applications from foreign doctors looking to work in Hong Kong. The figure represents a rise from previous years after promotional activities were conducted overseas.

At a Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday, three lawmakers raised oral questions about whether the government had enacted measures to tackle over-crowding and the lack of manpower within the public healthcare system.

The Medical Registration Ordinance was amended last year so that doctors with limited approval to practice could work in Hong Kong for three years instead of one. Chan said that the government targetted promotional efforts at doctors working overseas after the amendment was passed.

Sophia Chan. Photo: LegCo Screenshot.

“We see that the preliminary response was better than before. In the past, we had only a few applications every year, but recently we had 20 applications,” Chan said. Their applications will be reviewed by the Medical Council.

Chan said she believed the amendment could attract the children of Hongkongers who studied medicine overseas to return to the city and relieve the manpower issue.

According to Chan, there are currently 124 foreign doctors who are working on a limited registration, meaning they can only work in certain medical fields such as public hospitals. Of the 124, only a dozen work at the Hospital Authority, whilst 80 work within medical schools at two universities.

Asked by lawmakers if the government could exempt foreign doctors from examination requirements after they have worked in public hospitals for three years, Chan said it would involve legal amendments.

“The government would first seek a consensus from the industry,” she said.

Public hospital doctors. File Photo: Citizen News.

She said the Medical Council of Hong Kong is exploring whether internship requirements could be overlooked for non-locally trained doctors who have passed the licensing examination and worked in the Hospital Authority for three years on a limited registration.

Chan added that the government will increase the number of government-funded medical training places by 60 each year, up until the 2021-22 school year.

She also said the Hospital Authority will continue to roll out measures, including hiring part-time doctors and implementing an extra-pay scheme for doctors working overtime in order to bolster manpower within the public system.

Additionally, the Hospital Authority will minimise the number of meetings, or postpone non-urgent meetings as far as practicable, as well as hire extra ward clerks and ward assistants, according to Chan.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that an extra HK$500 million has been reserved for the Hospital Authority to handle the winter flu surge. Frontline public hospital doctors and nurses have protested against a lack of resources and conditions in recent weeks, as over-run hospitals struggle to handle an influx of patients.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.