One of her colleagues had to repeat his entire training and the intermediate exam, all of which he had already completed in the UK. The intermediate exam is a stepping stone towards become a specialist in a specific field of medicine.
If Ma had waited a few years before returning to Hong Kong to practise medicine, things would be different. Earlier this year, the MCHK gave the go-ahead for the Hospital Authority (HA) to hire nine overseas doctors to work in public hospitals without first taking the MCHK’s usual licensing examination and one year internship. The HA says all of the nine were born in Hong Kong but educated and trained overseas.
Their employment is part of the HA’s New Overseas Doctor Recruitment Scheme aimed at addressing the shortage of doctors in Hong Kong’s public hospitals. Under the scheme, a panel of experienced doctors and professors from local medical schools will vet overseas applicants. Overseas-qualified doctors with at least three years’ experience can apply.
In 2011, the HA needed to recruit 500 doctors to develop new services and to replace the 300 who left to work in the private sector. The ever-expanding private sector offers doctors higher pay and a lighter workload. But the HA was only able to hire 330 doctors due to a lack of qualified local recruits. Hong Kong’s medical schools produce just 260 graduates each year.
But the idea of recruiting more overseas doctors has drawn criticism from local doctors’ groups such as the Hong Kong Medical Association (HKMA), the Association of Private Medical Specialists of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association. These critics say that bringing in overseas-qualified doctors, especially without requiring them to take the licensing exam, will affect the quality of service.
In a statement in response to the scheme, the Allied Concern Group on the Standard of Medical Services in Hong Kong wrote: “Who will evade an examination to get a job?…The doctor we are looking for cannot be the one who evades challenges as benign as an examination.”