Nine specialist doctors from the Greater Bay Area and 70 nurses from Guangdong province will work in Hong Kong’s public hospitals next month. Meanwhile, the city is seeking to “snatch” medics from abroad at an upcoming recruitment fair in Britain to alleviate the manpower shortage.

Public hospital A&E emergency room
Patients waiting in a public hospital in Hong Kong. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The Medical Council of Hong Kong has granted limited registration to nine mainland medics who will come to the city in April, Hospital Authority Chairman Henry Fan told the press on Thursday after a board meeting. Their visits are part of a talent exchange initiative that aims to enhance healthcare services quality in mainland China and the city.

Five of the doctors belong to respiratory medicine, while the remaining four specialise in infectious diseases, cardiology, anaesthesiology and radiology, Hung said. They will work in public hospitals in the Kowloon Central, Kowloon West and New Territories West clusters.

Seventy nurses from across the border will also be working at the city’s public hospitals next month under the Greater Bay Area healthcare talent exchange programme. Hung described the first batch of participants as being “very experienced,” adding they had more than eight years of experience on average.

A series of training and exchange activities have been scheduled for the visiting doctors and nurses to familiarise themselves with the operations of local public hospitals, Hung said.

Henry Fan
Hospital Authority Chairman Henry Fan. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“We are very thankful that the Health Commission of Guangdong Province carried out a very careful selection for us, with written tests and oral assessments, choosing these 70 elites to come to Hong Kong and exchange with our colleagues,” Hung said.

Medics attrition

As of the end of January, the attrition rate of full-time doctors in Hong Kong’s public healthcare sector over the past 12 months stood at 7.2 per cent, which “eased slightly” compared 8.1 per cent recorded last October, the Hospital Authority chief said on Thursday.

But the hospital management body saw an uptick in the attrition of full nurses, where the rate rose from 10.7 per cent last December to 11.2 per cent as of the end of January. The situation was still “concerning,” Hung remarked.

Last June, the Hospital Authority launched a low-interest home loan scheme for its staff in a bid to retain manpower. The scheme received more than 930 applications, Hung revealed on Thursday, saying they would strive to settle a loan for the applicants before midyear.

The Hospital Authority would also step up efforts to “snatch talent” from overseas, Hung said, with its Chief Executive Tony Ko attending a recruitment fair – co-organised by the Hong Kong government – in London, UK next week.

Non-locally trained doctors who possess recognised medical qualifications are now allowed to practice in public hospitals after the city relaxed admission rules in a bid to ease the shortage of medics.

hospital authority logo (3)
The Hospital Authority logo. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Health chief Lo Chung-mau revealed last month that the government’s initial target was to attract 100 doctors trained abroad to come to the city following the amendment, only around 10 were willing to make the move.

Hung said on Thursday that the Hospital Authority will partner with the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong – the two local institutions that offer medicine programmes – and will meet medical students studying in the UK.

Hung admitted that recruiting overseas medics to join Hong Kong’s public healthcare system was not easy, saying it would be a “major decision” for them to relocate, especially those who have children. But the hospital management body wanted to “take the first step” in the upcoming trip to London.

“Dr. Ko is ready, he will even bring the contracts. If they are willing to sign, then we would sign [the contracts] immediately. But we don’t expect this to happen,” he said.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.