Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor and Dr Edward Leong Che-hung, former representative of doctors in the Legislative Council, have spoken out in support of the government’s proposal to reform the Medical Council of Hong Kong.
The controversial Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill proposes including four additional lay members – individuals who are not doctors – in the Medical Council. Dozens of doctors and medical students staged a sit-in outside the Legislative Council on Wednesday to oppose the bill. The Legislative Council’s discussion of the bill was postponed until July 6.
Lam said she had urged medical professionals to support the bill on multiple occasions, as it would restore public faith in the Medical Council’s ability to process complaints.
She added that if pan-democratic groups were demanding the government withdraw the bill or accept amendments which even Ko Wing-man, the Secretary for Food and Health, finds difficult to agree with, they should not expect her to change her stance on the matter.
At a reception celebrating the 19th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Lam said she had sent a letter to the Legislative Council Secretariat asking it to prioritise the Medical Council bill before two other bills which are scheduled to be discussed by the council before it breaks for the summer in two weeks.
Leong, who was previously a non-official member of Hong Kong’s Executive Council, said that one should not focus on one detail of the bill exclusively, but inspect the bill as a whole.
He said that he recognised the Medical Council’s role to maintain the quality and professional autonomy of medical practitioners, but also pointed out that the Medical Council has a role to supervise doctors, and the council should therefore increase its non-doctor members.
During the sit-in outside the Legislative Council on Wednesday, many protesters expressed concerns over the government’s proposal to introduce more overseas-trained doctors to the city under relaxed entry requirements. They said that adding four non-doctor members to the council would allow the proposal to pass more easily.
Proponents of the bill argued that it would speed up the processing of medical complaints, while opponents said it would make no significant difference.
“I believe they’re deceiving us,” said Dr. Wong Yee-him, a member of the Hong Kong Medical Association and the Medical Council. “They tell us that by adding four non-doctors to the Medical Council, they can speed up the efficiency of the Medical Council, but in reality we know that this is not possible.”
“Treating patients is about lives – we don’t wish to have those who are unqualified or do not meet certain standards to treat our patients,” said Kwong Po-yin, doctor and pro-democracy district councillor. She added that most overseas-trained doctors who come to Hong Kong do not enter the public health system.