Hong Kong to further relax law to fix doctor shortfall

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong will further relax a contentious plan to let non-local doctors practise in the city in order to tackle a shortfall of medical staff in the public sector, the city’s Health Secretary said on Tuesday.

Sophia Chan, speaking at a press conference, said the government was proposing to allow foreign doctors with specialist qualifications to work in the city via a scheme which allows them to skip a decades-old compulsory exam.

The scheme, which was announced at the start of this year, had initially been limited to overseas-trained Hong Kong residents and even then had sparked a backlash amongst many in the local medical sector who believed it would lower health care standards in the Asian financial hub.

Some see the legislation as a first step in replacing local doctors with those from mainland China, where there are concerns over health and safety standards, more than a dozen medical workers told Reuters in May.

Chan dismissed concerns that the law would lead to lower standards.

“We are very careful about ensuring the quality of these doctors,” she said.

Hong Kong has an acute doctor shortage with the per capita ratio two doctors per 1,000 people, far lower than other economies, the government said.

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has urged medical workers to support the bill and sharply criticised medics for “politicising” government policies, including its response to COVID-19 and the use of the Chinese-made vaccine Sinovac.

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