People back fines for abusing ambulance services: poll

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 April, 2006, 12:00am

More than 70 per cent of the public support a fixed-penalty fine for misuse of ambulance services, a survey conducted by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has found.

Nearly 60 per cent of the 1,085 people surveyed believed there were cases of abuse of ambulance services in Hong Kong, with 72 per cent in favour of charging people who misused the service.

More than half of the interviewees said those who abused the service should be fined $100, almost one-third thought abusers should be fined $300, while 18 per cent said a penalty of $500 or more was appropriate.

Almost 80 per cent supported a system of grading ambulance calls according to their urgency, the survey said.

The survey was carried out four months after the release of a consultancy report which suggested the Fire Services Department should implement a medical priority dispatch system to better identify critical-need patients.

Under the proposed system, ambulance calls would be graded into five categories, with the more serious cases responded to within nine minutes.

'The public believes a fixed penalty scheme should be imposed together with the grading system to deter callers from exaggerating the seriousness of their cases,' DAB research officer Yiu Cheuk-wah said.

The survey also found that of the 454 interviewees who had called for ambulance services, more than 60 per cent said their calls were not responded to within the Fire Services Department's target of 12 minutes.

Among them, 6 per cent said the response to their calls took more than 20 minutes.

Ms Yiu suggested the department improve its latest call mobilisation system, which was implemented in June last year to handle the increasing number of calls.

The DAB also urged the government to consult the public as soon as possible over the introduction of a grading and penalty system.

The Security Bureau said it was still studying whether or not to institute grading and fixed-penalty systems. It also said it would hold a public consultation before a decision was made.