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LCQ8: Veterinary service in Hong Kong

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (December 10):


     As indicated in Annex 2 to the Government's reply to my question in May this year, all of the bodies which awarded the qualifications held by the veterinary surgeons newly registered in Hong Kong between 2009 and 2013 are located in jurisdictions outside Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has compiled statistics on the number of Hong Kong residents who are currently studying overseas in veterinary programmes and, among them, the number of those who intend to return and practise in Hong Kong upon graduation; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether only those Hong Kong permanent residents who meet the requirements of section 9 of the Veterinary Surgeons Registration Ordinance (Cap. 529) may be registered as veterinary surgeons; if not, of the reasons for that;

(3) given that the bodies which awarded the qualifications to the existing registered veterinary surgeons in Hong Kong are all located in jurisdictions outside Hong Kong, whether in the long run the Government has plans to establish in Hong Kong a veterinary surgeon qualifications awarding body so as to train more local talents; if it does not, of the reasons for that; and

(4) as some grass-roots members of the public have relayed to me that as they could not afford the exorbitant fees charged by veterinary surgeons, they were unable to arrange for their sick pets to receive medical treatments, thus leaving them to die from illness, what measures the Government has in place to solve this problem?



(1) Hong Kong residents may, according to their own wish, pursue studies in subjects or programmes of their choices in places outside Hong Kong. The Administration does not collect information on the number of Hong Kong residents studying veterinary science outside Hong Kong. Nor do we have information on whether they intend to return and practise in Hong Kong after graduation.

     We understand that the Hong Kong Veterinary Association had hitherto issued a report on the state of Hong Kong's veterinary profession prevailing in 2011, which included an overview of Hong Kong students studying veterinary science outside the territory. According to the information collected by the association from the veterinary schools in Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand, there were about 180 to 190 Hong Kong students studying veterinary science in these four places in 2011.

(2) Under the Veterinary Surgeons Registration Ordinance (Cap. 529) (VSRO), no person shall practise veterinary surgery or provide a veterinary service in Hong Kong unless he/she is registered in accordance with the Ordinance and holds a practising certificate which is in force. Section 9 of the VSRO stipulates the qualifications for registration, which do not include any requirement that an applicant must be a Hong Kong resident.  

     Taking into account the needs of the local community and the circumstances of the veterinary profession, the existing arrangements are conducive to attracting veterinary professionals trained in other places to practise in Hong Kong.

(3) Since the commencement of the VSRO in 1997, the number of registered veterinary surgeons in Hong Kong has increased from about 150 to 735. At present, there is no empirical basis to suggest a shortage in the supply of veterinary surgeons in Hong Kong. There is also no sign of a substantial increase in the demand for veterinary services in the foreseeable future. We believe that the number of veterinary surgeons and the supply of veterinary services in Hong Kong are sufficient to cope with possible increase in demand. Local students who aspire to pursue a career in the veterinary profession may opt for studying at veterinary schools in other places. After obtaining qualification for practice in their graduating places, they may return to Hong Kong to apply for registration as a veterinary surgeon and practise here. This arrangement is similar to that adopted in some overseas jurisdictions such as Singapore.

     The Education Bureau has recently launched the Hong Kong Scholarship for Excellence Scheme (the Scheme) to support outstanding local students who aspire to pursue studies in world-renowned universities outside Hong Kong and return to work upon graduation. While there is no limitation on the disciplines of study that the students may pursue, priority will be given to those programmes that would contribute to enhancing Hong Kong's long-term competitiveness, particularly programmes that are not offered in Hong Kong (such as programmes in veterinary science). The Scheme will be implemented starting from the 2015/16 academic year, offering scholarships to three cohorts of students, with up to 100 students in each one. The Scheme will then be reviewed to evaluate its effectiveness. Students who aspire to pursue a career in the veterinary profession may apply for scholarship under the Scheme to study in the relevant programmes. Besides, we understand that a number of local universities have collaborated with different overseas veterinary schools and set up scholarships to sponsor outstanding students to pursue studies in veterinary science in the partner veterinary schools.

(4) Through the "Code of Practice for the Guidance of Registered Veterinary Surgeons" (CoP), the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong regulates the professional conduct of registered veterinary surgeons, including the principles for determining the service fees and charges. The CoP specifically stipulates that veterinary surgeons should make available to their clients or prospective clients a schedule of their normal fees and charges for consultations, routine tests and routine procedures. At the same time, the CoP also stipulates that veterinary surgeons should not charge exorbitant or unreasonable fees. If a registered veterinary surgeon does not comply with the requirements set out in the CoP and becomes a subject of public complaint as a result, the registered veterinary surgeon may be subject to inquiry hearing for his/her disciplinary offence(s). Pet owners are advised to compare the fees and charges of veterinary services of different veterinary surgeons before using the services, so that they can select the veterinary services that suit their personal needs and budget.

     Besides, many animal concern groups and animal welfare organisations also provide veterinary services. Those who are in need may bring their pets to these groups or organisations for consultation.

Ends/Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:38


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