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June 2016

Dear Fellows and colleagues,

At the time this message is published, the Government’s Bills Committee on Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016 should have finished their discussion on the draft bill.

Debates within the medical profession started when the proposal on the amendments first came out, despite the proposal to add lay members to the Medical Council was generally supported by all stakeholders. In April, the Government proposed that the two existing “appointed” members nominated by the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine (HKAM) be converted to two members to be directly “elected” by the HKAM Council to serve on the Medical Council, so as to keep the ratio of elected to appointed members in the Medical Council at 1:1, after adding four lay members.

Unfortunately, it seems there are some misunderstandings about HKAM’s representation at the Medical Council. There was even an allegation that the HKAM representatives act under the influence of the Government. Such remark is totally invalid and unacceptable, and interfering with the independence as well as professional and academic autonomy of HKAM and its Colleges. The independence and professional autonomy of HKAM are always upheld by its Council and governed by the HKAM Ordinance (Cap. 419). As mentioned in our previous submissions to the Bills Committee, the two representatives to be appointed to the Medical Council are nominated and elected by the HKAM Council. The representatives are all professionally independent and would represent the interest of specialists as well as patients.

While the Academy has repeatedly clarified its position on the amendment Bill, I wish to recapitulate several points here:

  • HKAM, with over 7300 Fellows, has a unique role in the Medical Council. Our role, not simply the number of HKAM Fellows, justifies our position in the Medical Council. HKAM is the only statutory body looking after postgraduate medical training, and its representation is comparable to that of the two Universities. The Medical Council should have representation from HKAM which is the statutory body empowered to set standards for, and assure quality / safe practice of, specialist medical practitioners.
  • All members of the HKAM Council are elected through elections, which are fair, transparent, and open. There is a fair representation of all 15 Colleges under HKAM. Elections of College Presidents and members are conducted in accordance with their constitutions, either by “general election”, or “election by the College Council which are elected by general election”. The constitutions of Colleges are known to and accepted by their Fellows. College constitutions can be amended through general meetings after deliberations and voting. Therefore Fellows of a College have a final say on the election process of their President, and this should be respected for professional autonomy. We welcome the Government’s proposal to allow the Academy to decide on how to elect the two members to the Medical Council under the principle of professional autonomy.
  • Election of representatives to the Medical Council through the HKAM Council demonstrates fairness to all Colleges irrespective of their sizes, which vary significantly from under 200 to over 1600 Fellows. A general polling is fair to individual Fellows but may sacrifice the rights of Colleges with smaller number of Fellows. Weighing the two, we consider the rights of College more important, as each Specialty College has equal contribution to the public.
  • It is not appropriate to directly compare the election process of HKAM Council with that of other nonstatutory bodies.

I hope the above would help clarify again the Academy’s stand and position on this issue, and that the proposed reform of Medical Council would finally take place in order for the Medical Council to function more effectively and efficiently in future.

On an even more important note, I wish to take this chance to seek Fellows’ support for the “Organ Donation Promotion Campaign” launched jointly by the Food & Health Bureau, Department of Health, and Hospital Authority. This campaign aims to further promote organ donation, and to integrate work by different government departments and organisations on organ donation. For patients suffering from end-stage organ failure, organ transplant is their hope for gaining new life. As members of the medical profession, we should help the Government’s work to inculcate a culture of organ donation in the community, aiming to reduce individuals’ and family members’ resistance and hesitation to organ donation. This would certainly help to save many lives. Your Academy and Colleges have participated as signatory organisations of the “Organ Donation Promotion Charter”, and I do hope Fellows can join us in this meaningful activity.

May I wish all Fellows a happy summer!

Dr Donald Li

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