Hong Kong government details one-year internship requirement for dental graduates following Legislative concerns

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21st May 2024 – (Hong Kong) The Hong Kong Government has elaborated on a proposed amendment necessitating a one-year internship for dentistry undergraduates. This announcement follows concerns raised by various stakeholders during a recent deputation session led by the Bills Committee on the Dentists Registration (Amendment) Bill 2024.

The amendment, targeting graduates from the University of Hong Kong’s Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) program, aims to address persistent critiques by the Dental Council of Hong Kong (DCHK) regarding the inadequacy of clinical experience among new dentists. This internship is seen as a crucial step in maintaining high dental service standards and ensuring patient safety.

The DCHK, a statutory body under the Dentists Registration Ordinance, has the authority to accredit dental programs and set standards for professional practice. Over the years, the HKU BDS program has been under scrutiny, with accreditation conditional on the implementation of recommendations aimed at enhancing training and clinical exposure for students.

Regular accreditation exercises, which include assessments by both local and international experts, have repeatedly highlighted shortcomings in the program’s ability to track and ensure adequate clinical training. Recent findings have particularly pointed out the uneven clinical experience among graduates, with some showing significantly less hands-on practice than required.

In response to these findings, the Health Bureau initiated consultations in early 2023, proposing a provisional registration system similar to that for medical practitioners. This system would allow BDS graduates to gain practical experience through a structured internship, covering various aspects of dental care, including emergency and special dental services.

Wide consultations have shown a strong consensus among stakeholders, including educational institutions, professional bodies, and patient groups, supporting the internship proposal. Both the DCHK and HKU have agreed on the urgency of implementing these changes and are collaborating closely with the Government to finalise the details.

The proposed internship would require dental interns to rotate through multiple service units, gaining exposure to different specialties under the guidance of experienced professionals. This approach is designed to equip them with the practical skills necessary for independent practice and specialty training in the future.

Interns would be remunerated at competitive rates, reflecting their professional responsibilities and the critical nature of their role in healthcare delivery. The Government has committed to ensuring sufficient positions for all local BDS graduates, emphasizing the internship’s role in enhancing professional standards and public health outcomes.

Addressing the Legislative Council, Professor Lo Chung-mau, Secretary for Health, stressed the Government’s commitment to the professional development of dental practitioners and the overall quality of healthcare services in Hong Kong. He highlighted the urgency of the internship program, appealing for legislative support to implement the changes swiftly.

The internship requirement is slated to affect BDS graduates from the class of 2025 onwards, with parallel provisions for trained dentists from overseas. These steps are part of a broader strategy to address systemic issues in dental training and ensure Hong Kong’s dentists are well-prepared to meet the demands of modern healthcare practice.