Published: 23:06, May 24, 2024
Dental regulator aims to gain more support for amendment to law
By Fang Xue in Hong Kong
This undated photo shows the Multi-Specialty Clinic of the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Dentistry, which provides students with clinical training opportunities and the public with affordable specialized dental treatment. (COURTESY OF HKU)

Hong Kong’s dental regulators on Friday pledged they would seek to garner wider support for the proposed amendment to Dentists Registration Ordinance, as opinions among dental students and lawmakers concerning the bill appears to be divided.

On Friday, lawmakers and government officials continued their discussions concerning the Dentists Registration (Amendment) Bill 2024, which aims to allow qualified nonlocally trained dentists to practice in specific institutions and to introduce a one-year internship requirement for local dental graduates as well as nonlocal dentists who have qualified to practice in Hong Kong.

The proposal to introduce a one-year compulsory internship has received mixed feedback.

The government explained that during a previous assessment, the Dental Council of Hong Kong — a statutory body overseeing the registration and regulation of the dental profession — had found that some students from Hong Kong’s sole dental surgery undergraduate degree course, the Bachelor of Dental Surgery program of the University of Hong Kong, had not obtained adequate clinical experience before graduation.

The government therefore suggested introducing the one-year internship before graduates can obtain full registration to improve the clinical skills training and work experience of local dental students.

Lee stressed that the amendment has been proposed with the hope of striking a balance between the industry, professional development and the needs of society

In a statement issued on Thursday, some HKU dental students said that criticisms concerning dental students' lack of clinical experience ignore the fact that the school has made efforts to improve its curriculum, and could harm the reputations of current dental students and graduates.

They urged the government, the dental council and HKU to provide further details and an implementation schedule for the internship program and to engage in a comprehensive discussion with students about the proposals.

Speaking after Friday’s meeting, Lee Kin-man, chairman of the dental council, said the amendments are an important step toward meeting the dental services needs of the community.

He said he had asked HKU to arrange meetings with dental students to explain the internship requirements to them and to canvas their opinions.

Lee stressed that the amendment has been proposed with the hope of striking a balance between the industry, professional development and the needs of society.

During the meeting, lawmaker Lam Chun-sing suggested shortening the undergraduate dental course by between a few months and half a year, or reducing the duration of internships, to enable students to complete their internships and start practicing as soon as possible.

Another lawmaker, Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan, said the undergraduate courses in dentistry in Switzerland and Sweden both take five years — which is one year shorter than the course in Hong Kong. Like Lam, she also suggested that Hong Kong shorten the dental course so that the graduation of students will not be affected by the internship requirement.

Lee said it may be possible to shorten the course, but it would be up to the university to decide.