talk back

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 January, 2005, 12:00am

Q Is it fair to means test patients seeking subsidised leukaemia drugs?

I refer to the article in the Post last week regarding the means test for subsidising the cost of the leukaemia drug Glivec. I do hope the Hospital Authority will reconsider their decision regarding the income level to be eligible, which is far too low.

A friend's husband was diagnosed with leukaemia a couple of years ago. He was previously the sole breadwinner. She is now struggling to earn sufficient to support her family of four (two young school-age boys) as well as paying the mind-boggling cost of her husband's $15,000-plus monthly medication expenses.

She has been borrowing a lot from relatives to cope with the draining burden of medication and their very basic living needs, but this source of help cannot continue. The emotional stress and financial pressures are very debilitating. Eliminating the cost of medication would instantly improve the mental and physical anguish for the whole family and others in a similar situation. The proposed means test of $16,000 monthly income for a family of three is far too low. How can anyone earning just a little over this amount support a family after paying for the medication?

The means test should be based on income after the cost of medication is deducted. Sufficient income allowance should be made to allow for basic living needs. This would allow the families caught in such a heartbreaking situation to live their lives with some dignity. Both the patient and breadwinner would be relieved of the worry of how to make ends meet and would improve their quality of life a little during a difficult time.

I hope the decision-makers will be more sympathetic by analysing the basic monthly living needs from the side of those struggling to cope. After all, this illness is totally beyond their control.

Lilian Lee, Sai Kung

Q What do you think of the government's handling of the Wan Chai reclamation consultation?

The government should learn from past experience that conventional ways of reclamation consultation are no longer workable today. In the old days, the general public did not have too much chance to express their opinions during the early stage of a project. The government should get the public proactively involved as early as possible so that the public's ideas and opinions are fully considered before formulation of any schemes.

For the Wan Chai reclamation project, the Court of Final Appeal has already issued a ruling and no doubt the government has an obligation to fully comply. If it is really unavoidable to reclaim the harbour for the construction of a road to alleviate traffic problems in Wan Chai, then the government should adopt a new approach to get public participation in the process at the beginning.

One suggestion is that the government should play the role of a facilitator to assist the public in understanding all the issues and constraints so that they are able to voice their views and needs, then to help to build consensus among different stakeholders, and finally to work with the public to come up with a win-win solution.

To achieve this, the government should present as much background and technical information as possible to the public. It is prerequisite that the public must have accurate and sufficient information before they can participate in the process in a meaningful manner.

In the latest consultation document on Wan Chai reclamation, the information is too brief.

Helen Chan, Taikoo Shing

Q What should be done to protect animals from unscrupulous pet shops?

In November, I had just arrived back from out of country and read the sad tale of Clare Bullen and her puppies. About four years ago I had a similar experience with a pet husky. I thought I had done my homework properly. I had gone to a Hong Kong Kennel Club dog show and tried to network with breeders. The shop I used was listed with the Hong Kong Kennel Club as a breeder.

Unfortunately, my son's puppy fell ill and I was not familiar with distemper. In the end the puppy died twitching in my arms and my son was devastated. I had gone to the veterinarian, but the puppy was too sick. If I had taken it back to the shop they probably would have disposed of it. We did everything we could including incurring expensive vet bills to save the puppy. The pet shop tried to put the blame on us as well.

I became quite upset and threatened all sorts of action including involving the kennel club. We managed to get another puppy for half the price of the original, which was already outrageous. The bottom line is if they won't give you a replacement guarantee, then you are taking your chances. Puppies sell. If they wait until they are fully vaccinated, the puppies will be older and not as saleable. The government could do more to protect the animals and owners, but I don't think it is a priority. So I guess it is buyer beware.

Name and address supplied

On other matters ...

Kevin Sinclair wrote about the need to overhaul the Hospital Authority. It's true the HA's facilities are overused and even abused. Mobilising the private health-care industry is obviously a worthwhile goal.

However, other than the ridiculously low cost of public health care, there is another reason many seek HA help. Public physicians are known to have the most updated knowledge and skills. The lack of continuing education requirements among private doctors creates an obsolete community with obsolete skills. Public hospitals offer the latest technology.

Bernard Lo, Mid-Levels