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  Government proposes to amend Medical Registration Ordinance
The Government proposes to amend the Medical Registration Ordinance (MRO) (Cap 161) to improve and increase the efficiency of the complaint investigation and disciplinary inquiry mechanism of the Medical Council of Hong Kong (MCHK), to increase lay participation in the main Council of the MCHK to enhance its credibility and accountability, and to enable the MCHK to approve applications for limited registration for a period from not exceeding one year to not exceeding three years.

"The Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill (MR(A) Bill) 2016 could not be passed before the end of the last term of the Legislative Council (LegCo). The Government subsequently set up a tripartite platform, comprising doctors, representatives of patients' interests and consumers' interests, and Legislative Councillors, to provide views on the composition and operation of the MCHK and forge consensus on the proposed legislative amendments as far as practicable," a spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said today (May 24).

"The MR(A) Bill 2017 is formulated on the basis of the original proposals of the MR(A) Bill 2016 and the subsequent Committee Stage Amendments proposed by the Government, and after taking into account the discussions and concerns of LegCo and the community on the MR(A) Bill 2016, the views expressed by members of the tripartite platform on various occasions, and the earlier deliberations and views raised at the tripartite platform.

"There is a pressing need to amend the MRO. With a backlog of 940 cases, the latest estimate is that it takes about six years on average for the MCHK to complete a complaint case from receipt to disciplinary inquiry. Constrained by the existing legislation, the MCHK cannot substantially improve the efficiency of the mechanism solely by administrative measures. It is necessary for the Government to make legislative amendments to effectively improve the existing mechanism so that the MCHK can complete the complaint handling process within a reasonable time frame. The MR(A) Bill 2017 is more comprehensive than the MR(A) Bill 2016. Apart from removing the bottlenecks under the current legislation, a modern mechanism is recommended to be set up under the MCHK to increase its efficiency and flexibility in handling complaints."

Major amendments of the Amendment Bill are as follows:

1. To improve the complaint investigation and disciplinary inquiry mechanism of the MCHK and increase its efficiency. Major amendments are:

* Inquiry meetings no longer to be conducted by the MCHK. Instead, Inquiry Panels (IPs) will be set up under the MCHK to conduct inquiries;

* To uphold professional autonomy, the MCHK to decide the number and membership of Preliminary Investigation Committees (PICs) and IPs, and to set qualification requirements of assessors, to appoint the chairman and deputy chairman of a PIC and the chairman of an IP. The majority of members of PICs and IPs must be doctors;

* To increase lay participation in PICs and IPs;

* To set up more than one PIC and IP;

* MCHK members and/or assessors to form PICs and IPs;

* To establish a sufficient pool of medical and lay assessors to participate in PICs and IPs. The number of assessors will be increased from 14 to not exceeding 140. Among them, the number of doctor assessors will be increased from 10 to not exceeding 80 while lay assessors from four to not exceeding 60; and

* To increase legal support accordingly to handle the anticipated increase of cases. The MCHK can appoint more than one legal adviser and enable the Secretary for Justice to appoint any counsel or solicitor to carry out the statutory duties of the Secretary of the MCHK in inquiries.

The Government hopes that the backlog of cases could be handled as soon as possible after the passage of the legislative amendments and that the majority of the cases that require inquiry can be concluded within two years after clearing the backlogs.

2. To increase lay participation in the MCHK. Major amendments are:

* To increase the number of lay members in the main Council of the MCHK from four to eight, i.e. the total number of MCHK members will be increased from 28 to 32, of which lay members account for 25 per cent. The appointment by the Chief Executive (CE) is not required for the four additional lay members. It is stipulated that three of them will be directly elected by patient organisations and one to be nominated by the Consumer Council. The election procedures of the three patient representatives shall be prescribed in a subsidiary legislation.

* The Hong Kong Academy of Medicine (HKAM) is an independent statutory body responsible for medical specialist training and granting of specialist qualifications. Having regard to the principle of professional and academic autonomy and the structure of the HKAM, the two appointed members nominated by the HKAM shall be elected in accordance with its rules and regulations and appointment by the CE is not required.

Under the MR(A) Bill 2017, doctor members will remain the majority (75 per cent) in the MCHK while the proportion of lay members will be increased from 14 per cent to 25 per cent. Half of the members will be elected doctor members. Elected members and one member to be nominated by the Consumer Council (whose appointment by the Government is not required) will account for about two-thirds of the membership, while only about one-third will be appointed members.

3. Limited registration

The validity period and renewal period of limited registration will be extended from not exceeding one year to not exceeding three years.

The MR(A) Bill 2017 will be gazetted on June 2 and introduced into LegCo on June 7.

Ends/Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:00