5 June 2019

Views on Relaxing Licensing Requirements for Overseas Doctors Surveyed Findings
Released by Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at CUHK



To attract more overseas doctors to get licensed to work in Hong Kong, the Medical Council of Hong Kong (the Medical Council) decided in May 2019 to exempt overseas specialist doctors from internship requirements. Some legislators believe that the new arrangement is not attractive enough and propose amending the related medical bill directly to waive the licensing examination of overseas doctors who can fulfill certain specified criteria.  A survey conducted by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, showed that the views of citizens on the legislators’ proposal were varied.  About one-third disagreed with this proposal, and one-fourth agreed.  Half of the citizens worried that overseas doctors would work in the private sector once they got their medical licence and so importing doctors would not solve the manpower shortage problem in the public sector. 

A telephone survey took place from 18 to 26 May 2019, and 704 respondents aged 18 or above were interviewed.  On the proposal made by some legislators to exempt overseas doctors from the licensing examination, the survey found that attitudes of the respondents varied considerably.  Whereas 34.1% of them disagreed with this suggestion, 24.4% agreed and 26.5% said “in-between”. 39.0% of the respondents worried that the exemption of the licensing examination would lower the overall quality of Hong Kong doctors.  About 30.5% claimed that they were not worried, and 19.9% said “in-between”. 

On the question of whether the Legislative Council should be involved in the licensing requirements of overseas doctors, it had been argued that since the Medical Council understands the professional requirements of a doctor, the Council should decide what criteria the overseas doctors should meet in order to get a local licence.  While 41.5% of the respondents agreed with this view, 18.9% disagreed and 24.5% said “in-between”.  Another argument was that the Medical Council is over-protecting the interests of local doctors.  Therefore, we should let the Legislative Council set the licensing requirements of overseas doctors by directly amending the law; 29.0% of the respondents agreed with this argument, 25.0% disagreed, and 31.7% answered “in-between”. 

The Medical Council has recently made a new arrangement to exempt overseas specialist doctors from internship requirements, as long as they have worked in the Hospital Authority, the Department of Health or medical schools of universities for three years and have passed the licensing examination.  41.5% of the respondents thought that the new arrangement could help attract more foreign specialist doctors to Hong Kong.  Only 11.9% opined that it could not and 33.1% said “in-between”. Currently, foreign general practitioners have to complete a one-year internship before they can get a local licence.  Nearly one-half (49.6%) of the respondents believed that if their internship could also be waived, more foreign general practitioners would come to Hong Kong to get a local license and work.  Only 11.1% did not think so and 22.6% answered “in-between”. 

On the matter of relaxing the licensing requirements for overseas doctors, 50.0% of the respondents worried that these doctors would move to work in the private sector after they received their licence.  That meant importing overseas doctors would not solve the manpower shortage problem in the public sector.  Only 18.2% said they were not worried about this and 23.2% answered “in-between”. 

Lastly, the respondents were asked whether they were satisfied with the medical service qualities of Hong Kong public hospitals and clinics.  The results showed that 37.5% were satisfied, 22.7% were dissatisfied and 35.2% said “in-between”. 

The response rate of this survey is 36.7%.  The sampling error is estimated at plus or minus 3.69 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.