More child psychiatrists sought

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2007, 12:00am

Parents with children suffering from attention deficiency and hyperactivity disorder are demanding the government hire more child psychiatrists to shorten waiting times for specialist help that can range from one to three years.

They said yesterday it was intolerable that the Hospital Authority had only 12 child psychiatrists when the number of children with special needs was rising.

Chan Chok-wan, president of the Hong Kong Society of Child Neurology and Developmental Paediatrics, said there should be at least 28 considering the size of the city.

'The current shortage of child psychiatrists means that children do not get the adequate care they need even when they are ill.'

Dr Chan said the self-esteem of these children, often labelled as mischievous at school, would be affected because of delays in diagnosis.

'Some parents who cannot wait to see government psychiatrists may go to private ones to find out what is wrong with their children. But not many families can afford to bring their children for such a visit.'

According to a 2002 study, about 6 per cent of boys at secondary school suffer from attention deficiency and hyperactivity disorder. The figure for girls was 3 per cent.

In a recent government review of rehabilitation services, attention deficiency and hyperactivity disorder was put on the list of disabilities.

Bernice Siu Fung-po, a parent representative, said the government should introduce concrete measures and guidelines to increase support for these children.

Her 11-year-old son was diagnosed with attention deficiency and hyperactivity disorder at the age of eight. She said she faced tremendous pressure from teachers with little knowledge of the illnesses.

'An experienced teacher ... sat my son at the back row near the window, to keep him away from her. This is a big mistake when dealing with children with attention deficiency, as they are easily distracted by things outside the window,' she said.

After much criticism from teachers that her son was a troublemaker, Mrs Siu decided to seek help from a child psychiatrist in private practice, who charged HK$3,000 for each visit.

'I just hope the government can do something to shorten our waiting time for psychiatry services.'