1,200 sought help from hotlines in past 17 days
Mary Ann Benitez
About 1,200 people have sought help in the past 17 days from hotlines set up to assist people with problems caused by the financial meltdown, welfare director Stephen Fisher said yesterday.
Since October 13, the government has injected HK$1.2 million more into the CEASE Crisis Centre, of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, and Caritas' Family Crisis Support Centre, to run the 24-hour hotline services. And Mr Fisher, director of the Social Welfare Department, said, 'if there is a need we will provide additional resources'.
He expected more people applying for comprehensive social security assistance. 'Given the severity of the present financial crisis, we expect the number of people coming on to social security, as a result of losing their jobs or losing part of their income, will tend to increase,' he said.
Hospital Authority chief executive Shane Solomon said there had been a slight increase in the number of people attending specialist out-patient psychiatric clinics. Each month, about 50,000 people visit.
'So far there have been 55,000 this month, a small increase,' he said.
'We cannot say that's because of the financial tsunami. But we are aware we might see a surge in demand in the future, and currently we are making plans to be able to deal with that.'
The authority is examining whether it could open a triage clinic at each of its seven hospital clusters in two months or so, instead of opening them next April. Triage clinics sort patients by the severity of their condition when resources are short.
'With the financial tsunami, we are now looking at whether to bring those seven clinics forward,' he said.
Chinese University professor in psychiatry Lee Sing said he had been told by several family doctors and psychiatrists that they were seeing more patients with anxiety, depression, phobia and sleep problems in the past month, caused by financial stresses.
'I expect in the coming months more of these anxiety and depressive reactions will emerge,' Professor Lee said. 'Normally you don't see this right after a financial crisis. People try to cope and, in a matter of a few months, their coping mechanism starts to break down.'