West beats East when cure needed
Chow Chung-yan and Shirley Lau
Hong Kong people still overwhelmingly prefer Western to Chinese medicine, but many will be willing to seek traditional cures when a new herbalist licensing system comes into effect.
Fifty-eight per cent of 512 respondents in a survey by the University of Hong Kong said they would visit only Western doctors, while a mere 4.3 per cent preferred Chinese medicine. More than 23 per cent said they would be prepared to use both.
One-third of those who said they would not consult Chinese medicine practitioners believed Western medicine was more reliable and its practitioners more professional. They also said Chinese medicine was too slow to take effect.
But most of the respondents said they believed in Chinese medical values. They said Chinese medicine could strengthen their immune system and had fewer side effects.
More than 30 per cent of those who consult only Western medicine doctors said they would consider visiting a Chinese medicine doctor once they obtained their licences.
Almost 70 per cent said their confidence in Chinese medicine had been improved by the Government's registration system. Practitioners were required to apply for registration before December last year or lose their right to practise. Those with less than 10 years' experience must sit an examination.
Most people believed registered Chinese medicine doctors should be able to issue sick leave and medical certificates. They also said Chinese medicine should be covered by insurance schemes.
Yu Wui, a leading Chinese herbalist, said he was optimistic about the future of Chinese medicine. 'Now even Western medicine doctors are talking about alternative medicine,' he said. 'People's views have much improved over the years. We have got more customers than before.'
A doctor has described as alarming a survey that found most people know nothing about strokes - the third biggest killer in Hong Kong.
About 98 per cent of 643 interviewees were not aware diagnosis within the first six hours of an acute stroke could significantly lessen the effects. The survey was compiled by the Chinese University and Canossa Hospital.
'It is alarming, though not surprising, that people have little awareness and knowledge of the disease,' said Dr Robert Ho Ting-kwok, of Canossa hospital. 'It is widely assumed that people hit by a stroke can hardly be cured when in fact early diagnosis within the first six hours of an acute attack can lead to great improvement.'
In 1999, more than 3,300 people died from strokes, which usually hit the elderly and cause symptoms such as sudden numbness and loss of speech.
Dr Ho, medical director of the hospital's new brain centre that opens today, fears strokes are affecting more people in their 30s and 40s.