Hong Kong will be ambitious in recruiting global talent to plug the manpower shortage in healthcare, the public hospitals chief has vowed, as the city welcomed most of the 83 medical professionals expected under an exchange programme with neighbouring Guangdong province.
Hospital Authority chairman Henry Fan Hung-ling on Monday also revealed that more than 20 doctors and medical students in the United Kingdom had agreed to join the local public sector after a recruitment drive earlier this month.
Around noon on Monday, Fan received 70 nurses and three doctors from Guangdong who arrived at Hong Kong’s West Kowloon high-speed railway station under the Greater Bay Area Healthcare Talents Exchange Programme, where medics from mainland China would work in local public hospitals for about a year. They made up the bulk of the programme’s first batch of 83 healthcare workers.
All the nurses were chosen by the Health Commission of Guangdong province and they were the kind of talent we were hoping to recruit, he said. “They are all familiar with clinical work.”
Fan said the nurses had an average of eight years of work experience and one had more than 20 years. They will be assigned to the city’s seven public hospital clusters, with each one taking 10 nurses.
The doctors will work at public hospitals in central and western Kowloon and the western New Territories.
He added that they could understand both Chinese and English.
“In the future, we hope the talent scheme will be gradually expanded,” he said.
There are 83 mainland healthcare professionals under the exchange scheme, including seven doctors who arrived last week, two traditional Chinese medicine practitioners who are already in the city and one who will get in tomorrow.
Fan said health authorities aimed to have 300 nurses join the programme in the coming two years. The second batch of nurses, of about 100, was expected to arrive by the end of the year.
Yang Bo, a representative of Guangdong’s health commission who was part of the delegation, said mainland doctors would stay in the city for a year while nurses would stay for 10½ months.
“They are all qualified to work in Hong Kong,” Yang said. “We hope that through this platform, healthcare exchange and collaboration between the city and Guangdong province in the future can be enhanced.”
The exchange scheme, which was announced last September, is aimed at helping to plug the manpower shortage in public hospitals. The authority also went overseas to recruit non-locally trained doctors.
More than 100 conditional offers were made after the authority’s chief executive, Dr Tony Ko Pat-sing, led a delegation to London early this month to recruit doctors. As of Sunday, more than 20 professionals had signed up to work in Hong Kong’s public hospitals, Fan said.
“We are taking a multi-pronged approach … We will send a team to Australia in June [for recruitment],” he said. “We are also considering a global scheme where we could recruit talent to help alleviate the workload of our Hong Kong colleagues.”
Separately, the government has formalised a support programme that offers Hongkongers on the mainland subsidised follow-up consultations at the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital. Officials on Monday announced a pilot scheme to replace the programme, which will take effect on May 10.
The programme was launched in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic when Hong Kong public hospital patients living over the border could not return to the city due to travel restrictions.
By late February, more than 54,000 consultations had been arranged under the programme. The government said the pilot scheme would help officials determine the feasibility of directly purchasing healthcare services from facilities in the Greater Bay Area for Hongkongers living in the region.
The bay area plan aims to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities into an economic powerhouse to rival other innovation and financial hubs, such as Silicon Valley and the Tokyo Bay Area.
Lawmakers will be consulted about the scheme on Wednesday.