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Government proposes to enhance accountability and flexibility of Medical Council

     The Government proposes to amend the Medical Registration Ordinance (Cap. 161) to increase lay participation in the Medical Council of Hong Kong (MCHK) and to improve its complaint investigation and disciplinary inquiry mechanism, as well as to enhance its efficiency, with a view to increasing the MCHK's transparency and accountability. The amendment bill concerned also proposes to introduce measures to facilitate the admission of non-locally trained doctors.

     "In response to the challenges of an ageing population and increasing demand for healthcare services with higher expectations, the Government has set up a steering committee chaired by the Secretary for Food and Health to conduct a strategic review on healthcare manpower planning and professional development in Hong Kong. It aims to formulate recommendations that could better enable us to meet the anticipated demand for healthcare manpower and facilitate professional development, with a view to ensuring healthy and sustainable development of Hong Kong's healthcare system, as well as providing continued quality healthcare services to the public. We expect that the review will be completed in mid-2016," a spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said today (February 24).

     "On the regulation of healthcare professionals, while recognising the principle of self-regulation, the steering committee observes that there is an international trend towards more public participation, greater transparency and accountability in the discharge of the self-regulatory functions by healthcare professional bodies.

     "In view of the mounting public concerns over issues related to doctors, we decided to introduce the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016 into the Legislative Council (LegCo) in the first quarter of this year, pending the completion of the review report and in advance of the implementation of the full recommendations of the review, to address immediately concerns over lay participation in the MCHK, its complaint investigation and its disciplinary inquiry mechanism, as well as the admission of non-locally trained doctors."

     The main provisions of the amendment bill are as follows:

(1) To increase lay participation:

* To increase the number of lay Council members in the MCHK from four to eight, with total Council membership increased from 28 to 32, of which 25 per cent will be lay members;

* To increase the number of lay persons appointed to a Preliminary Investigation Committee (PIC) from one to two; and

* To increase the number of lay Council members appointed to the Health Committee from one to two.

(2) To improve the MCHK's complaint investigation and disciplinary inquiry mechanism, and enhance its efficiency:

* At the stage of preliminary investigation, the MCHK may set up more than one PIC to handle complaints and there will be more lay participation in a PIC. The composition, quorum and operation of a PIC will also be amended to increase flexibility;

* For disciplinary inquiry, the total number of assessors will be increased from 14 to 34. The composition of the quorum for forming an inquiry meeting will also be adjusted; and

* In order to cope with the anticipated increase of cases, legal support will be strengthened. The MCHK may appoint more than one legal adviser and the Secretary for Justice may appoint any counsel or solicitor in private practice to carry out the statutory duties of the Secretary of the MCHK in inquiries.

(3) To facilitate the admission of non-locally trained doctors:

* To extend the maximum term of registration and renewal of medical practitioners with limited registration from not more than one year to not more than three years.

     The amendment bill will be published in the Gazette on February 26 and introduced into LegCo on March 2.

Ends/Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:01


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