Support for dentist internships urged

May 21, 2024

Secretary for Health Prof Lo Chung-mau today appealed to legislators to support the internship arrangements for local dental graduates.


Prof Lo made the appeal as the Government further elaborated on the proposal on requiring local dental undergraduates to undergo a one-year internship after their graduation, in response to the concerns expressed by individual Legislative Council members and attendees of the deputation session of the Bills Committee on the Dentists Registration (Amendment) Bill 2024.


The proposed internship arrangement aims to enhance the clinical experience of local dental graduates through on-the-job training, so as to address the concerns raised by the Dental Council of Hong Kong (DCHK) on multiple occasions over the severe lack of clinical experience among graduates of the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) programme of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in its accreditation exercises.


This serves to uphold the standard of dental services in the city and safeguard the wellbeing of patients.


The Government emphasised that local dental graduates are to be treated under the bill as registered dentists when they are undergoing the internship.


The internship arrangement is by no means an extension of the programme and it is infeasible to replace the internship with school work, it added.


The DCHK has provided a written reply to LegCo that it is inappropriate to allow BDS students, who are still in the learning and practising process without having yet fully mastered various clinical skills for dental treatment, to prematurely undergo internship as registered dentists and independently perform various dental procedures on patients.


The Government also considered that it is impractical to require students to undergo an internship on a full-time basis while studying for an undergraduate programme at the same time.


The Government undertook to provide internship opportunities for all dental graduates of the HKU BDS programme and will spare no effort in assisting every graduate to complete the internship with a view to providing quality dental services to the community.


Based on the bill's ongoing legislative progress, the internship requirement will, at the earliest, apply to local dental graduates in class of 2025 and thereafter, while the arrangement for period of assessment will apply to non-locally trained dentists who have sat and passed the licensing examination administered by the DCHK with the exact date hinging on the examination schedule.


The Government noted that the internship arrangement is designed for dental graduates, akin to the long established practice for medical practitioners. With reference to the experience of medical interns, cases requiring extension of internship or period of assessment are extremely rare and there is no record of any case for termination of internship or period of assessment in the past five years.


Prof Lo emphasised that the Government attached great importance to the training and regulation of the professional standard of dentists in Hong Kong as well as the prospects of local BDS students.


The Government has proposed to introduce the internship arrangement as soon as possible, which is crucial to maintaining the professional standards and reputation of dentistry in Hong Kong.


Prof Lo added: “As a responsible Government, we should proactively enhance the standard of our dentists to keep up with the times, rather than taking remedial measures only after incidents concerning patients' safety arise.”


He strongly appealed to LegCo members and the industry to recognise the importance of the proposed internship arrangement and render support for its early implementation.

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