Eye-in-the-sky system 'may have saved life'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 February, 2000, 12:00am

A global positioning system might have helped save the life of an 89-year-old patient who died after it took ambulancemen 21 minutes to find his home in a remote village in Kwai Chung.

A consultancy firm has been commissioned by the Fire Services Department to look into the feasibility of introducing the system and other locating software by 2003.

The department believes its mobilising system could be improved by these hi-tech devices.

The 89-year-old man, who collapsed on January 28 at his home in Cheung Hang village, arrived at Princess Margaret Hospital 44 minutes after the Fire Services received a call for help.

He died after receiving emergency treatment for heart disease.

The man's family made no complaint but an investigation was carried out after legislators expressed concern. It concluded that the ambulancemen arrived at the village entrance within the 12-minute performance pledge but spent 21 minutes trying to find the patient's home near the far end of the village.

The ambulance team blamed the delay on the scattered buildings and the disorganised numbering system. Numbers were not shown on maps.

Chief Ambulance Officer Mak Kwai-pui said the delay had nothing to do with his staff's unfamiliarity with the village location or the roads leading to it.

A short cut, which the officers were unaware of during the search for the home, was later found near the patient's building.

Mr Mak said they would have used helicopters if there had been a landing area in the village.

At present, ambulances only have a road map and staff often have to rely on past experience to find the right address.