Overseas specialists should learn Cantonese: Ho Pak-leung

Overseas specialists who are allowed to work in Hong Kong’s public hospitals should be asked to learn Cantonese, HKU expert Ho Pak-leung said.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee announced a proposal yesterday to allow overseas specialists to work in Hong Kong to solve the brain drain of doctors. She expressed hope the bill could be passed by the Legislative Council by the end of term on October 30.

Speaking on radio this morning, Ho said the overseas specialists may not be able to speak Cantonese or Putonghua. They should be subject to some kind of language requirement and those who cannot understand Chinese should have courses available to them so they can catch up, he said.

If non-Chinese speaking doctors are assigned desk work, they won’t be able to help solve Hong Kong’s shortage of doctors, which manifest in long queuing time for public hospital’s services, he added.

He also said that he expected the new proposal would only attract much fewer than 100 doctors to come to Hong Kong a year and won’t be a magic solution.

The president of the Public Doctors’ Association, Tony Ling Siu-chi, said Hong Kong should improve its overall hospital environment and welfare for doctors before overseas doctors consider find it attractive to come to the city. He also voiced concern over the government handing the task of verifying overseas doctors’ specialist qualifications to Hong Kong Academy of Medicine.

Having abandoned an earlier list of 100 overseas medical schools for reference, the academy may have to spend a lot of time verifying the qualifications of specialists and processing their applications, he said.

Chan, also speaking on a radio program, repeated that the relaxation for specialists aims to solve the shortage of doctors and serve public interests. It is not a political decision, she said.

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