Aid urged for victims of muscular diseases

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

Highly-educated people with progressive muscular disease are being left jobless with no hope for the future, and the government is not helping them, a legislator says.

Civic Party legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who represents the social welfare sector, said he knew of 15 people with muscular dystrophy who, despite being university graduates, were idle at home.

'How can you, the secretary, help them?' he asked the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok at the Legislative Council meeting yesterday.

Dr Chow promised to follow up on the cases. But he said: 'Employers first have to assess the quality of their work. There is need for better co-ordination.'

He suggested that people with muscular dystrophy could consider working from home.

Dr Chow clarified that the disease, muscular dystrophy, referred to in the English version of the Legco oral question, differed from muscular atrophy, which was referred to in the Cantonese version of the question.

'Muscular dystrophy is a general term for a group of uncommon neurological diseases mainly caused by the anomaly of cells in the central nervous system or absence of certain muscle proteins, characterised by dysfunction, progressive degeneration and atrophy of muscles,' Dr Chow said.

Muscular atrophy is similar to the Lou Gehrig's disease, which afflicts eminent scientist Stephen Hawking.

Muscular atrophy progresses more slowly than Lou Gehrig's disease. Neither disease can be cured.

Professor Hawking was feted during a visit to Hong Kong last month that included a reception with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

There are about 350 people with muscular dystrophy in Hong Kong, some of whom live in school hostels and others in care and attention homes.

Annual fees for care and attention homes places are $160,000 compared with $130,000 at school hostels, he added.