PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2006, 12:00am

Q How can organ donation rates be increased?

Aside from those with cultural issues about retaining a whole body, I suspect there are a significant number of potential donors like me.

If they were asked in an opinion poll whether they might have an interest in making a donation if it would save a life, most would answer 'yes' or 'maybe', but do not end up on the donors' list. They may not know how to go about it, what the issues are and the different types of donation one can make.

I therefore think one way to increase organ donation rates would be to approach this information gap from two fronts.

First, it has to be made easier for those considering donating organs to obtain information and register their desire to donate. A government-funded website regularly promoted in the press with adverts, and a Web link at the end of every newspaper article on the subject, or where a donation might have saved a life.

Second, people need to be made more aware of the disparity between those needing different types of donations and the number of donors in different categories - again a website. The website should show how many people are waiting for donations, whether they are waiting for a heart, a liver or bone marrow donation, how long they have to wait and the number of donors on the register in each category.

I suggest the Post take the lead and at the end of every article on this issue include links to relevant websites.

Mike Allardice, Discovery Bay

On other matters ...

I had to smile when reading 'HK patients among most demanding in world' last Friday in City. I feel the reason is obvious - culture.

Although the article was about hospital patients, I think the problem starts at a grass-roots level. My local Chinese colleagues run to the doctor at the slightest sniffle and return to work the next day with an assortment of pills, creams, lotions and, most disturbingly, antibiotics, which they take whether they need them or not.

A case in point. Just last week, a colleague laid out her assortment of drugs and I asked her what the problem was. She had not seemed to be ill. She explained that the day before, she must have drunk some milk that was a little off and it had given her a stomach ache. She had not taken time off work and did not seem to be sick, but she still went to the doctor, who gave her drugs and, yes, antibiotics.

Now, I'm no doctor but I do know that most people raised in the west would have, and do, just shrug off such a minor illness, knowing full well that a dodgy stomach - for example - doesn't need a doctor.

A few years ago I went to the dentist for a crown fitting and afterwards the dentist gave me a collection of drugs that included antibiotics and powerful pain relievers. When I quizzed him about the need for them, he said most were for 'just in case'. I didn't need them nor did I take any of them.

When I changed GP last year, I asked him about this issue and he said that if he did not prescribe drugs of some sort, most of his patients complained. They would feel like they had not got their money's worth.

In the Prince of Wales Hospital dispensing room there are posters instructing patients not to demand drugs. This seems to me to be acknowledging the fact that drugs are overprescribed here and doctors seem to have given in to the demands of a public who perhaps want an instant cure from western 'wonder medicine'. I would argue that, by extension, patients seek to get into public hospitals for similar reasons.

Also, people in this city are crazy about freebies. You see massive lines when things are to be given out free or at little cost - despite that fact the freebie is never worth the time or hassle spent queuing.

The GPs are too eager to please the paying public and the hospital fees are so cheap that people reason that they'll get cheaper, faster, better treatment at a hospital.

Neil Turley, Sha Tin

We are aware of the Hospital Authority's proposed increases in prescription charges, but now they are also saving costs by not prescribing specific medicines.

I've been an outpatient at Ruttonjee Hospital for about four years, suffering from high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I'm prescribed tablets for both of these conditions - Norvasc and Lipitor. On my last visit I was told the authority was reducing costs, and the medications prescribed were too expensive.

Fair enough, as I have no issue with trying to reduce costs, provided it is done without risk to the patient.

I was prescribed a different tablet for my high blood pressure (Adalat retard), which has to be taken twice a day, rather than once a day for the tablet I presently take. I was told it would have the same effect as my present medicine. Fine, except why did they prescribe the expensive tablets in the first place if the cheaper ones could do the same job?

For my high cholesterol I was told that the authority will not provide anything unless I have already had a heart attack. Now, I thought it was common knowledge that high cholesterol was one of the factors that cause heart disease and heart attacks, so by not providing anything, are they not encouraging more people to have heart problems and attacks.

This would result in more emergencies and deaths, but I suspect that emergencies are from a separate budget, so reducing the pharmacy costs and increasing emergency costs does not factor into the calculations. Is this taking cost cuts too far?

Peter Hilling, Wan Chai

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, a former financial secretary, may be keener on the stock market than fresh food markets.

The Wan Chai Market, a beautiful example of Streamlined Moderne, a popular architectural style in the 1930s, was sold to a developer and will be demolished. The open market nearby at Cross Street and Tai Yuen Street, which is still thriving, has been asked to reduce its size in order to complement the redevelopment project at the place: three new residential buildings. The Central Market is also going to be sold.

It is contradictory that the government is not going to sell the reclaimed Tamar site, yet it wants to sell and demolish the historic and valuable market buildings. When will the government realise that Hong Kong is a place for people to live, not a place for making money? I am very curious about the government's policy on food markets. Redevelopment of the Central Market has been discussed and researched for more than 10 years. The market has not been relocated but many of the market's activities have disappeared for so long that the building has become a skeleton. Where is its soul? Cows, pigs, chickens and ducks are to go to centralised slaughtering. Fresh meat is sold in fridges.

But many people still go to traditional food markets, a good place for social gathering. The government does not appreciate their social value and attraction to tourists. Why are the local open markets never promoted? Slicing a fish in front of a tourist is a dirty blot on Hong Kong's international image? Many other places promote their food markets very well, like Taiwan, Japan, Italy, which help show outsiders the local people's lives, customs and society.

The decisions to kill one food market building after another remind me of the fate of the dai pai dong, which were forced to shut down and move to high-rise indoor complexes. Not many remain, and even those remaining face licensing problems.

The culture of buying fresh food with hawkers shouting out the price will soon disappear and become just a memory. But before this happens, I urge the government to develop a proper and clear policy on food markets before it is too late to salvage our tradition and culture.

Day Lee, Ap Lei Chau