The Hong Kong Medical Council had passed a vote on 3 April that made it difficult for overseas doctors to work in Hong Kong. The votes were cast despite a shortage of medical manpower in Hong Kong, especially in the public medical sector.

The ballot by Hong Kong’s medical watchdog rejected three of four proposals designed to make it easier for overseas-trained specialists to work in Hong Kong by exempting them from internships.

Medical professionals have called for the Medical Council to re-vote on the proposals to attract more overseas personnel. They are citing a flawed election system to blame for the failure to reach a consensus on the best option.

“Its obvious members want to discuss the topic again. I believe the legal consultants will figure out a way to re-table the issue”, said Gabriel Choi Kin, a former president of the Hong Kong Medical Association.

“It’s a stupid way to vote. It’s not logical for someone to support all four options”, he was reported as saying in The Standard.

He also suggested overseas doctors could work at public hospitals in Hong Kong for a two to three-year period; as opposed to an internship.

“Its a reasonable way to ease the manpower shortage in the public healthcare system”, he added.

At any one time, it is believed Hong Kong’s overburdened public healthcare system has a shortfall of around 300 doctors.

To many medical professionals, the difficulty of entering Hong Kong’s medical sector is old news. Even Hong Kong-born doctors that were trained overseas are not exempted from the hurdles presented to them.

According to the South China Morning Post, one UK-trained surgeon who passed after five attempts and completed his required internship laments that it took him almost as long as completing a PhD to overcome this restriction.

Medical interns are usually fresh graduates who are learning how to manage hospital patients, drawing blood for testing, inserting IV lines in patients, and many other basic medical tasks to familiarise them with the operation of the hospital. Having trained doctors rotate through this internship in various specialty departments performing these duties can be seen as a waste of the doctor’s time and skill.

The Hong Kong government has acknowledged the need for more hospitals and doctors in 2018. However, there has been little to no action taken thus far to reduce the strict requirements to allow foreign specialists into the medical workforce.