Veterinary Surgeons Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014 gazetted

     The Government gazetted today (July 4) the Veterinary Surgeons Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014, which proposes to amend the Veterinary Surgeons Registration Ordinance (Cap. 529) to strengthen the membership and streamline the modus operandi of the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong (VSB), thereby enhancing the VSB's capacity in dealing with complaints and performing its statutory functions.

     A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said, "Since the enactment of the Ordinance in 1997, there have been significant changes in circumstances pertaining to the development of the veterinary sector. The number of registered veterinary surgeons has increased from around 150 to 720. There has been growing awareness of the importance of animal welfare and higher community expectations about the standard of veterinary service in Hong Kong."

     The spokesman added, "In tandem with the wider availability and utilisation of veterinary services in the territory, the number of complaints received by the VSB has risen markedly in recent years. The complaints have also become more complex with advances in clinical diagnostic and treatment options over time.

     "Hence, the Government and the VSB jointly conducted a review of the Board's structure and modus operandi, and conducted a public consultation on a package of proposals in 2012."

     Having regard to the feedback of the public consultation and the circumstances of the local veterinary profession, as well as to cope with the increasing caseload, the Bill proposes expanding and modifying the membership of the VSB by increasing the number of members of the Board (including the Chairperson) from 10 persons to 19 persons. In addition to members appointed by the Secretary for Food and Health, six of the newly added members, who are registered veterinary surgeons, will be elected by members of the profession. This will help enhance the representativeness of the Board and encourage greater involvement of the veterinary profession in managing its own affairs.

     Under the Bill, the VSB will also be enabled to establish a panel of assessors, comprising not more than 12 registered veterinary surgeons and not more than six persons who are not registered veterinary surgeons, to be appointed by the Board to serve on the Preliminary Inquiry Committees (PICs) and the Inquiry Committees (ICs) for handling complaints against registered veterinary surgeons. With the proposed addition of assessors, the composition of PICs and ICs will be modified and the Board may appoint more PICs and ICs if necessary to cope with the increasing caseload.

     To streamline the process, the Bill also proposes that the PIC will decide whether to refer the complaint directly to an IC to conduct an inquiry, rather than having to route the case through the Board as currently required under the Ordinance.

     The Bill will be introduced into the Legislative Council on July 9.

Ends/Friday, July 4, 2014
Issued at HKT 11:00