A patients rights advocate on Saturday said more needs to be done to ensure the quality of outside nurses, and to make sure they don't leave the public healthcare sector after serving for just a year.
Alex Lam from Hong Kong Patients' Voices was commenting on a proposed pathway to allow non-locally-trained nurses from overseas and mainland institutions to practise in Hong Kong without taking a licensing exam.
The pathway was outlined in a Health Bureau paper to Legco this month as a possible solution to the city's nursing shortage. Currently, non-locally-trained nurses must pass a licensing exam run by the Nursing Council of Hong Kong to work here.
Lam said the new pathway would put an additional strain on the council to make sure the nurses are up to standard.
"We have to make sure that they have sufficient academic or on-the-job training before coming to Hong Kong, so the Nursing Council might have a burden to make sure that those recruited from overseas would have the required standard comparable to the standard we have in Hong Kong," he told reporters after attending a radio programme.
He also suggested lengthening the minimum time spent in the public sector to three years from the proposed one.
"Work experience under supervision in the public sector is very important. While we pay them to work in the hospitals, we have to understand whether they are fit for the job, whether they are safe for the patients. I would suggest at least three years," Lam said.
Speaking on the same programme, lawmaker Rebecca Chan called on the government to do more to retain local nurses, such as hiring more nursing assistants to ease their workload.
The government has said the length of time needed to train local nurses means the current shortage cannot simply be addressed by increasing local manpower.