Q Where would you like to see cycling tracks developed in Hong Kong?
What a wonderful idea to have the world's longest cycle trail in Hong Kong. Let's hope the design is better than the 7km section from Tai Po fire station to Tai Mei Tuk on which cyclists are required to get off their bikes 30 times because of hazardous barriers on both sides of the cycle path.
In most other countries, cycle paths have been carefully designed to be cyclist-friendly. Hopefully, government engineers will consult experts both from Hong Kong and overseas to ensure that this new trail is capable of becoming not only a tourist attraction but also a treasure for the community at large.
Ruth Hunt, Sha Tin
Q Should drug dispensing and medical treatment services be separated?
The recent case in which a doctor's clinic in Wong Tai Sin dispensed the wrong medicine was nothing new, as this happens regularly in Hong Kong hospitals. These mistakes will continue no matter what training the doctors propose to give their staff in private clinics.
Training is now the common tool used to solve all problems in Hong Kong, but the results have so far been disappointing.
There is a need to protect patients from receiving the wrong medicine.
Such incidents can be reduced to the minimum only if there is a separation of responsibilities: pharmacists should dispense drugs and doctors stick to writing prescriptions.
The core problem is that we are still using the 1969 Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (with minor amendments) to manage dispensing of drugs. It's a third-world system to manage a developed society's needs. No real change to basic legislation to protect citizens in 36 years appears ridiculous.
The resistance comes from doctors who must find the dispensing of drugs in clinics a lucrative business and are unwilling to give up this practice. There is nothing wrong with doctors making money. They can still do it by forming partnerships to open their own dispensaries managed by pharmacists. They can still make money and give better protection to citizens.
The questions that need to be addressed include how doctors can work with pharmacists to provide input to introduce revised legislation that will protect citizens from receiving the wrong medicine.
Political parties can gainfully occupy their time by acting as the catalysts to encourage a new business partnership that will protect citizens from receiving the wrong medicine.
Q Should the ambulance service be an independent department?
A letter appeared on June 4 which made several points we would like to clarify.
An ambulance of the Fire Services Department is manned by three members, comprising one ambulance supervisor at the rank of a principal ambulanceman or senior ambulanceman, one attendant and a driver of ambulanceman rank.
An ambulanceman is required to go through 26 weeks of full-time training and is qualified to the standard of emergency medical assistant 1 (EMA 1) before he or she can perform pre-hospital emergency care on people in need.
Drivers of our ambulances are fully qualified ambulancemen who have received further training in driving an emergency vehicle. They are rotated to perform driving duties and are required to perform rescue and patient-care duties with their partners at incidents.
In the words of your correspondent, ambulance drivers are multitasked.
Regarding the comments on the standard of ambulance crews, all ambulances are equipped to provide paramedic service and are manned by ambulance supervisors qualified to EMA 2 standards.
These paramedics are capable of providing advanced patient care such as intravenous infusion, defibrillation and use of selected drugs.
As a whole, they are of a proficiency level comparable to that in most developed countries. EMA 1 and EMA 2 are qualifications accredited by the Justice Institute of the British Columbia Paramedic Academy, Canada.
According to their classification, an EMA 2 is a trained professional with medical skills and knowledge to provide advanced patient care in a pre-hospital setting.
Mak Kwai-pui, for Director of Fire Services
On other matters ...
We would like to respond to Peter Stanley's letter published in Talkback on May 28 regarding the MTR's Tung Chung Line service.
We would like to clarify that, contrary to Mr Stanley's belief, there has been no change in the MTR Tung Chung Line timetable. Trains operating between Tung Chung and Hong Kong stations continue to run at 10-minute intervals for most of the day, as they have for many years. Frequency is strengthened to an average of eight-minute intervals during the morning peak period.
Furthermore, a more frequent service averaging four minutes per train is operated during the morning and afternoon peak periods between Hong Kong and Tsing Yi stations to cater for the greater demand in that section.
However, as Tung Chung Line trains share tracks with the Airport Express, co-ordination between the two services may mean slight variations of a minute or so in train arrival and departure times.
The passenger-carrying capacity of Tung Chung Line trains was increased in 2003 when an extra carriage was added to each train. Today, the trains are still able to satisfy demand with enough capacity to spare to accommodate the extra patronage from the opening of the Disneyland resort line and the cable car in Tung Chung. We will continue to monitor the situation to identify any need for adjustments.
Miranda Leung, MTR Corporation
I refer to a letter published in the June 8 Talkback column concerning the kitchen requirements arising from the exercise of harmonising childcare centres and kindergarten services.
The setting up of a kitchen is not a statutory requirement in either childcare centres or kindergartens. It is therefore not covered by the present legislative amendments. Childcare centres and kindergartens now adopt different means of meal preparation - childcare centres by means of a kitchen, kindergartens by means of a catering service.
The proposal to allow operators to choose between the two is to provide them with more flexibility. This arrangement is necessary, taking into account the existing differences in the mode of operation among childcare centres and kindergartens. But we have not come across any childcare centres that have plans to hire catering services.
We must reiterate that the administration has been very cautious about the food quality in both childcare centres and kindergartens.
Pre-primary service operators are required to observe the hygiene and catering rules set out in the code of practice for childcare centres and the manual of kindergarten practice. Inspections are carried out by the concerned authorities to ensure that food quality meets the required standards.
The administration has also received concerns from parents about the staff-to-children ratio upon the harmonisation of pre-primary services and would like to take this opportunity to clarify the staffing requirements as well.
The proposal of changing the staff-to-children ratio from 1:14 to 1:15 was to align the difference between the two-to-six age groups in childcare centres and kindergartens. This ratio will only be a minimum statutory requirement. Childcare centres can continue to adopt 1:14 or an even better manpower ratio. We have not come across any childcare centres that have plans to change their existing 1:14 ratio due to the proposed change.
The administration exchanged views with the childcare and kindergarten sectors on the manpower issue. The administration agreed to withdraw the legislative amendment regarding staff-to-children ratio in the childcare bill, and the ratio will remain at 1:14 for children aged two to three in childcare centres. For children aged three to six attending kindergartens, the ratio of 1:15 will be maintained.
That said, childcare centres upon conversion to kindergartens can continue to adopt the manpower ratio of 1:14 for children aged three to six.
Since the public consultation on the harmonisation of pre-primary services was held in 2002, the administration has continued discussions with the sector, including the childcare representatives of the Salvation Army, to devise measures and an implementation plan for the harmonisation of pre-primary services.
The current measures were adopted after having listened to views of the public and the sector, and balancing the differences in the existing practices at childcare centres and kindergartens. The administration will continue to work with the pre-primary service sectors to create a superb caring and learning environment for our children.
Peter Ng, for Director of Social Welfare