Patient, 82, denied entry to Discovery Bay tunnel

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2006, 12:00am

Son forced to negotiate for 45 minutes while his sick father sat in vehicle

Hong Kong Resort, owner and manager of the Discovery Bay development, has been branded heartless after an elderly hospital patient was told he could not return home through the Discovery Bay tunnel because he was travelling in a private car.

As Discovery Bay is car-free, private vehicles are discouraged from entering and private cars or delivery vans can only enter with permits issued in advance

Atma Gidwani, 82, was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital last month after breaking his ankle in a fall in his home. His doctor granted him two days' home leave on June 24 and 25 and it was left to his son, Baljit, to arrange transport. Baljit says he was given permission to drive through the tunnel but was then denied entry. The company has blamed the incident on a misunderstanding.

'I tried to arrange for non-emergency transport through the hospital and the Hong Kong Society for the Handicapped, but none was available,' said Baljit. 'I only managed to find a private vehicle operator whose van had a hydraulic wheelchair lift.

'I called the Discovery Bay control centre on Friday and explained my situation and my father's very delicate condition. I asked if this vehicle would be allowed through the tunnel and they told me it would be fine so long as it was a van and I paid the tunnel fee.'

However, when they arrived at the toll booth at 1.30pm they were refused entry because they were travelling in a private car.

While Mr Gidwani waited in the car, Baljit called the control centre and was told that what they had meant by a 'van' was in fact a commercial goods vehicle.

'I explained to the staff that my father was in a great deal of discomfort and I had to get him home and lying down immediately,' said Baljit. 'But they just tried to get me to transfer him onto the shuttle bus.

'I knew they had a hire car with a wheelchair lift in Discovery Bay and asked if they could send that, but they refused as the car was not allowed to enter the tunnel.'

After 45 minutes of negotiation, during which 'numerous goods vehicles came and went', Baljit lost his temper and threatened to hold them responsible for any decline in his father's condition. Finally, the tunnel manager relented and let the car through.

But the delay had taken its toll on Mr Gidwani's health. By morning his blood pressure had dropped dangerously and he was taken by ambulance back to the hospital.

'Is Hong Kong Resort brainless in its arrangement of tunnel laws or just heartless in its attitude?' asked Baljit.

A Hong Kong Resort spokesman said it had all been a misunderstanding. 'When Mr Gidwani called us he didn't inform us of his father's condition, and the tunnel manager didn't know the English for commercial goods vehicle.'

'We tried to arrange for one of our vans to take him through. But when the manager saw the patient's condition, he sympathised and let the car pass, even though it was against company policy.'

He said anyone wishing to use the tunnel in a private vehicle could apply for a special permit from Hong Kong Resort.