Writing in his blog on Sunday, Cheung said increasing the number of students in local medical schools alone cannot solve the problem, because it takes time to train doctors and the capacity of medical schools is also limited.

His comments come just days after the government set up a committee to draw a list of up to a hundred medical schools abroad to allow their graduates to come practise in the SAR.

Hong Kong permanent residents who graduated from one of the chosen schools and registered as doctors outside of Hong Kong could come back and work here, as long as they find a job in a local public medical institution.

After they obtain specialist qualification in Hong Kong, they will have to work at the public medical institution for another five years before they can get full registration.

Critics worry that the quality of medical services might be affected if doctors trained in the mainland are allowed to work here, but the government says the committee would not take into account political factors when compiling the list.

A bill will be tabled at the Legislative Council on June 2.

Cheung said the government cannot sit on its hands over the problem, and made an appeal to doctors’ groups and the wider society to view the issue in an “objective, reasonable and pragmatic manner” and take into consideration the overall interests of Hong Kong.