Press Releases in Hong Kong

HK eyes hiring non-permanent residents to ease doctor shortage

In this file photo dated April 27, 2021, Hong Kong Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee holds a press conference at Central Government Offices. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)

HONG KONG – To address the severe shortage of doctors, health authorities on Tuesday proposed allowing physicians who are non-permanent residents to practice in Hong Kong without taking the rigorous licensing exam.   

In a press briefing, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said they were also proposing amendments to the Medical Registration Ordinance that will allow permanent residents who graduated from recognized medical schools outside the SAR to do their internship in the city.

Health authorities earlier proposed to the Legislative Council to allow the “special registration” of permanent residents who graduated from recognized foreign medical schools so that they can practice in the city without taking the licensing exam.

Health authorities earlier proposed to the Legislative Council to allow the “special registration” of permanent residents who graduated from recognized foreign medical schools so that they can practice in the city without taking the licensing exam

“For non-locally trained doctors who are specialist doctors, they don’t have to be a Hong Kong resident.  We’ll attach more importance to their medical and professional qualifications,” Chan said.

“We want to make the special registration regime attractive. We’re proposing the amendment because of an acute shortage of doctors,” she added.

Chan said the Hospital Authority needed 600 more doctors while the Department of Health was looking for 50 more physicians.

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According to the local think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation, those aged 65 or above will account for 29.9 percent of the city’s population by 2036, and another 10,000 doctors are needed to match the level of healthcare for chronic diseases 20 years ago.

Chan said they were focusing on the recruitment of specialist doctors and safeguards will be in place to ensure that only those who are qualified are allowed to work in Hong Kong.

“They have to work for five years after they have obtained their specialist qualifications and will have to be recognized by the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine and their respective college,” she said.

“We have these safeguards to ensure doctors coming to Hong Kong are of good quality,” she added.

Chan said permanent residents who are fresh graduates of foreign medical schools recognized by the special registration committee will need to pass the licensing exam before they can take their internship in Hong Kong.

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“As they are Hong Kong permanent residents, and probably originally from Hong Kong, we don’t see a big problem in terms of communication,” Chan said.

The Hospital Authority welcomed the proposed changes to the bill, saying that they enable the special registration program to attract more qualified non-locally trained doctors to join the public healthcare system to meet the service demand.

"The non-locally trained specialists may also assist in training local specialists and support specialist training," a spokesperson for the Hospital Authority said.