英文

Editorial:Breaking the protectionism of medical profession

【明報專訊】In view of the long-standing shortage of doctors in Hong Kong, the government has proposed amending the regulations to open a pathway for non-locally trained Hong Kong doctors registered overseas to return and practice in Hong Kong without having to sit an examination. The protectionism of the medical profession has long been a stumbling block to solving the shortage of local doctors. The amendment of the regulations to allow the return of non-locally trained doctors to Hong Kong has been discussed in society for years, but no progress has been made. The amendment will break the wall of protectionism, but it remains to be seen what specific results it will achieve. If necessary, the authorities should further remove the unreasonable thresholds and barriers established by the medical profession.

While Hong Kong's population is ageing, the number of doctors in Hong Kong has failed to keep up with the needs of society. The waiting time for emergency services in public hospitals easily reaches several hours, while the average waiting time for a specialist is two years. As the training capacity of local medical schools is limited, the introduction of more qualified doctors registered overseas has been discussed by various parties countless times over the years. However, despite the passage of much time, significant progress has not been made due to vested interests and political resistance.

Over the years, whenever the relaxation of restrictions on non-locally trained doctors practising in Hong Kong was proposed, the medical profession would invariably go all-out to peddle the myth of the ''influx of quack doctors'' to protect their own interests. In the government's proposed amendment, the scope of qualified and non-locally trained doctors will be limited to those who are originally from Hong Kong. If the medical profession continues to make excuses, it will be paying no regard to the long-term interests of society.

The amendment bill will be submitted to the Legislative Council for its first reading early next month. It is expected to be adopted within this legislative term. After the amendment, non-locally trained doctors originally from Hong Kong who graduated from recognised medical schools and have attained the status as specialists will be allowed to practise in public hospitals for five years, and will be eligible for full registration in Hong Kong without having to sit an examination if their performance is assessed as satisfactory. The government will establish a special registration committee under the Medical Council of Hong Kong (MCHK) tasked with compiling a list of recognised medical qualifications.

Over the years, the medical profession has engaged in rampant protectionism in the name of ''professional autonomy'', and various consultation and discussion mechanisms inside and outside the Legislative Council have become its vehicles for impeding reform. While the profession is unhappy about the amendment, it is believed that many people will hope that some people in the profession will be honest about whether what they did in the past was in the public interest.

There are myriads of rankings of medical schools around the world. They cannot be trusted fully, but they can serve as points of reference. If the medical schools on the list are widely recognised internationally, there is nothing wrong if top medical schools in mainland China are included.

The amendment bill stipulates that doctors returning to Hong Kong should practise in public healthcare institutions for five years before they are qualified for full registration without having to sit an examination in Hong Kong. The relevant arrangements will help ease the shortage of doctors in public hospitals without affecting the private market in the short term. Given the urgent need of medical staff in public and private medical services, the introduction of more non-locally trained doctors is unlikely to affect the interests of local doctors. Some people in the profession have poured cold water on the amendment, arguing that it will attract around a hundred doctors back into Hong Kong at best. If so, the government should consider imitating measures adopted in places like Singapore and further expand the scheme of attracting qualified doctors overseas.

明報社評 2021.05.20:協助港人醫生回流 打破業界保護主義

本港醫生長期短缺,政府提出修例,為非本地培訓的海外註冊港人醫生,開闢免試回港執業路徑。業界保護主義,一直是解決本地醫生不足的絆腳石。修例讓非本地培訓的港人醫生回流,社會討論多年,一直原地踏步。今次修例將業界保護主義鐵壁,打開了一道缺口,具體成效有待觀察,如有需要,當局應進一步拆走業界所架設的不合理門檻和壁壘。

香港人口老化,醫生人手卻遠遠追不上社會需求。公立醫院急診輪候時間動輒數小時,排隊看專科醫生平均更要等上兩年。本地醫學院培訓額度有限,引入更多合資格海外註冊醫生,多年來各界談了不知多少回,卻因既得利益和政治阻力,遲遲未見重大進展。

這些年來,每當提出放寬非本地培訓醫生來港,醫生業界就大肆渲染「庸醫湧港」,掩護自身利益。現在當局修例,將引入合資格非本地培訓醫生的範圍,僅限於港人子弟,業界繼續諸多推搪,就是無視社會長遠利益。

修例草案下月初提交立法會首讀,政府期望今屆會期內通過。修例後,非本地培訓的港人醫生,若是在認可醫學院畢業,獲得專科資格後,在本港公營醫療機構做滿5年,評核表現滿意,就可免試在港註冊。當局將在醫委會之下,設立「特別註冊委員會」,負責制訂認可醫學資格名單。

醫生業界多年來假「專業自主」之名,大搞保護主義,議會內外各種正常諮詢及討論機制,一一成為業界阻撓改革的平台。業界不滿政府修例安排,相信不少人亦希望業界一些人撫心自問,以往所作所為有否尊重公眾利益。

國際醫學院排名林林總總,不宜盡信但可以參考,如果名單內所列的醫學院,水平在國際廣獲認同,包括內地一流醫學院在內又有何問題。

修例草案規定,回流港人醫生必須在公營醫療機構工作5年,方可免試在港註冊,有關安排有助紓緩公院醫生荒,短期亦不會對私人市場有影響;以香港對公私營醫療服務的殷切需求,引入多些非本地培訓醫生,也不可能影響本地醫生利益。有業界人士潑冷水,認為修例充其量只能吸引約百港人醫生回流,果真如此,政府應考慮參考新加坡等地做法,進一步擴大招攬合資格海外醫生的範圍。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

invariably /ɪnˈveəriəbli/:always

pour cold water on sth:to give reasons for not being in favour of sth; to criticise sth

imitate /ˈɪmɪteɪt/:to copy sth because you think it is good

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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