PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2007, 12:00am

Labs must be adequately supervised

We wish to thank you for Lilian Goh's article, 'Alarm at medical lab health checks', and your editorial, 'Patients must come first in health business' (both April 25), drawing the attention of the public to the potential health hazards of some medical laboratories directly promoting health-check packages to consumers.

Health-care services, such as diagnosis, treatment, and disease screening, should be provided by qualified medical professionals to safeguard the public. Laboratory testing, with medical implications, should be provided or supervised only by pathologists or medical doctors specialised in laboratory medicine.

It is worrying to see laboratory testing being treated as a consumer product, or a commercial activity, rather than for health protection. The article highlighted the issue and the editorial pointed out our concerns. However, bypassing family doctors, and thus leading to unnecessary investigations and health hazards, is only part of the problem. The most alarming part actually lies inside the medical laboratories.

Laboratories are not performing equally. Without proper supervision by qualified professionals to ensure quality and standards, there is nothing to prevent misleading results from poorly calibrated equipment, inadequately trained technicians, and all sorts of profit-driven irregular practices. Unfortunately, unlike medical laboratories in public hospitals and universities, which are all directed by pathologists, many private medical laboratories in Hong Kong are not properly supervised, and the accuracy of the results from such laboratories is unknown.

As pathologists, we fully understand the 'garbage-in, garbage-out' phenomenon in providing laboratory services - it is crucially important to have accurate results before they can be interpreted correctly.

While the potential hazard of unregulated health-check services in bypassing family doctors can be seen by many, more worrisome is the danger before the results leave the laboratories.

As purely profit-driven businesses not supervised by medically qualified professionals, and hence not bound by medical ethics, not only is the reliability of the health-check results questionable, they are also open to improper practices.

We therefore submit that, in the best interests of the public, all medical laboratories, whether for diagnosis or for disease screening, must be adequately supervised to ensure a uniform and reliable standard.

Dr Lee Kam-cheong, president, Hong Kong College of Pathologists

Death wish granted

There is good news for those who wish to develop asthma and other respiratory diseases and to die from lung cancer or pneumonia caused by badly polluted air.

The government is doing its best to grant them their death wish. It plans to help them on their way by: first, cutting out more of the city's lungs by further reclaiming the harbour in Central and Wan Chai.

Second, attracting a further 7,623 vehicles per hour to Central by selling six large pieces of land for property development in order to increase air pollution.

Third, attracting an additional 50,000 people to Central - through the Tamar and other property developments which will produce more than 10 million square feet of floor area - to worsen the air quality.

They will die with a smile on their face knowing that the government promised to do its best to fight air pollution, and in actual fact did the opposite. They will rise to heaven on the government's hot air and tell St Peter it was all a mistake.

According to the government, they should still be living happily in Hong Kong, where the chief executive assured them the air quality was not bad at all.

Winston Chu Ka-sun, adviser, Society for Protection of the Harbour

Enlightened attitude

While walking alongside the river in Guangzhou two weeks ago, I was within 400 metres of the White Swan Hotel when I saw a beautiful colonial-era building being lovingly restored to its former glory.

Then, last week, a nephew of mine from the Guangzhou area, in Hong Kong for a short break, told me that in his home village a planned main road had been rerouted to preserve a very old banyan tree.

How amazing!

In Hong Kong, the government's attitude is: if it's an old building, knock it down; if it's a magnificent old tree, ignore the fact: it's just a tree, really.

It seems to me that the powers that be on the mainland are far more enlightened and sensible than their counterparts in Hong Kong.

Bob Beadman, Tsuen Wan

An absurd exam topic

It is difficult to know which point is the more shocking in your report 'Students claim tip-off over public exam' (April 30).

First, it seems that instead of providing their fee-paying students with the skills needed to write a good essay on any topic, some private tutorial colleges provide teacher-written essays for them to memorise in the hope that the topic may come up in a public exam.

But then, what of the half-baked decision by the Examinations and Assessments Authority in setting such an absurdly pedestrian exam topic; Lemon Tea?

This would be easy for even the weakest of students to cover, thus making the exam certificate as worthless as the exam question paper.

Mary Pang, Kwai Chung

Vindictive thinking

Does David Eason, 'Unfaithful civilisations doomed to fall' (April 29), really think it Christian to pray for the death of an innocent wishing tree and then rejoice that God has done his bit by answering the prayer?

I am also puzzled that he thinks God might bring down the Ngong Ping 360 cable car as a blow against Buddhist idolatry. His vindictive thinking is quite enough to put fair-minded folk off Christianity.

Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels

A petty God

David Eason says God answered his prayer to teach idolaters a lesson by causing the Lam Tsuen wishing tree to lose branches two years after the fact.

It seems to me a rather lazy form of answering a prayer - 'causing' something to happen which would have been likely to happen anyway, with or without supernatural interference.

Perhaps God should go on a motivational seminar. Maybe it is Mr Eason's opinion that God moves not so much in mysterious ways, but particularly petty ones.

Alethea Dean, Discovery Bay

No offence

In reference to the article 'Money to burn' by Stephen Vines (April 27), I would like to point out that Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Joseph Wong Wing-ping is neither a director of, nor a government representative at, the Applied Science and Technology Research Institute.

This means he could not be 'among the worst offenders for non-attendance ... who missed 10 meetings on the trot' as described in the article.

Augustine Poon, press secretary to the secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology