Don't abuse ambulance service

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 November, 2008, 12:00am

Some Hongkongers call for an ambulance even though it is not an emergency. This cannot be solved by grading calls according to their urgency. It is difficult for paramedics to classify emergency calls without the public's co-operation.

People who call the service usually want the ambulance to come as soon as possible. So some of them might lie about their condition to the paramedics.

The problem is 'bogus' emergency calls put the lives of people who really need medical assistance in danger.

We need to be more disciplined to prevent the abuse of ambulance services.

All of us have the responsibility to ensure the resources are used only in a real emergency.

Milly Tsang, Ju Ching Chu Secondary School

From the Editor

Thank you, Milly, for your wonderful letter. Ambulance abuse is a terrible problem in Hong Kong. Luckily services are usually very prompt.

I think one of the problems here is most people don't have their own transport. So getting to hospital if, say, you've cut your foot or broken your hand, is quite difficult.

But there is a way for paramedics to tell which is an emergency and which is not. The system is called 'triage' and is used in many other countries, and on the battlefield. By asking questions they can more or less determine which case is an emergency and which is not. It is terrible to think someone might be using an ambulance for a sprained wrist while another person is dying of asthma, a heart attack or diabetic coma.

Yes, some people could lie and fake an emergency, in which case they should receive a warning. If they abuse the system again, they should be fined.

Susan, Editor