The government has opened the door for doctors with specialist qualifications who are non-permanent residents to work in Hong Kong, as it unveiled a plan to further relax restrictions to address a manpower shortage at hospitals here.
Under the proposal, non-locally trained, non-permanent residents will be able to work in public hospitals under a special registration scheme.
In announcing the plan on Tuesday, Health Secretary Sophia Chan dismissed concerns that it would lead to lower standards.
"We are very careful about ensuring the quality of these doctors, non-locally trained doctors," she said.
"First is obviously the recognised qualifications that we require. Secondly, if they have a specialist qualification then it would have to be recognised by the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine and its respective colleges if it's a specialty college."
The health minister added it is hard to say how attractive the scheme is, while admitting that the workload and environment for doctors have been challenging at public hospitals.
"We are trying our best to make the both the environment, the working environment, as well as working in Hong Kong be attractive to people," she said.
She played down concerns about communication for these non-locally trained doctors, saying employers will take into consideration language proficiency.
Patients' rights activist Tim Pang, from the Society for Community Organisation, welcomed the changes, and he too wasn't concerned about potential communication issues.
“We haven’t heard of complaints that if those professors or foreign doctors who can’t speak Cantonese to the patients is a problem. We believe the public hospitals will find a way to assist with the communication problem,” he said.
Chan said the required legislative amendments have been submitted to Legco and hopes lawmakers will pass them by the end of their term in October.