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Friday, Mar 24, 2023

Discomfort over banning new dentists from joining private sector

Discomfort over banning new dentists from joining private sector

Local dental graduates will need to serve in public institutions for three years before they could enter the private sector, the government proposed, in an attempt to solve the serious manpower shortage of dentists in public institutions.
But industry veterans were concerned that the regulations would deter young students from pursuing a career in dentistry.

Currently, dental students can start practicing as dentists right after graduation.

But in amending the Dentists Registration Ordinance, the government proposed to require all local dental graduates to complete a one-year internship at the Department of Health or the Hospital Authority before being allowed to register as a dentist. Those who do not perform well during the internship may see the period extended.

Upon registration as general dentists, they will have to serve at public institutions for another two years.

As for dental specialists, they will be asked to serve at the Department of Health for up to five years.

President of the Hong Kong Dental Association Nelson Wong Chi-wai said the new measures are "harsh" and "unreasonable" and may deter students from studying dentistry.

Wong said the government should instead solve the manpower shortage in the public sector through long-term measures.

"Authorities should think about why there is a brain drain in the public sector," Wong said.

"If [the promotion system] of public institutions is not improved, [the proposed measure] could only force fresh graduates work in public institutions while senior dentists continue to leave. Who will train the young dentists then?" he added.

Medical and health services sector lawmaker David Lam Tzit-yuen said most public dental services are for civil servants and the government should distribute dental care vouchers to the elderly for annual checkups.

According to the Dental Council of Hong Kong, there are around 2,700 dentists in Hong Kong, meaning there are only 3.7 dentists per 10,000 people.

The number of dentists at public institutions has dropped sharply in recent years, with the vacancy rate at 22.3 percent in October last year.

Meanwhile, the authorities are also considering to introduce non-local nurses to practice in Hong Kong. They will be allowed to register in the SAR exam-free after working in public institutions with satisfactory performance for a certain number of years. Elderly Commission member Grace Li Fai said this could ease the pressure on public hospitals and elderly care homes.

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