PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2009, 12:00am

What do you think of the ambulance dispatch system plan?

The aim of the proposed dispatch system, to provide a quicker response for critical patients by giving them priority over less urgent cases, sounds good. But I doubt it can raise the quality of the rescue services ('Staff raise fears over new ambulance system', July 4).

The dispatch operators do not have paramedic knowledge or frontline rescue experience even if they have had 40 hours of training.

I do not believe the operators can understand patients' situations without paramedic knowledge and make accurate decisions when it comes to categorising calls. For example, an elderly person may only tell the operator that he has stomach pain. However, that pain may be related to a serious disease.

Such a case should be treated as a priority, that is, Response 1. However, an operator without any paramedic knowledge may simply regard the case as Response 3, 'non-acute'. This elderly person would then be at risk.

Although there will be a computerised dispatching system with software to help operators decide how to categorise calls, the decisions the operators make will not necessarily be accurate, as they will be based on a few simple questions.

The way to improve the quality of rescue services is not by setting a new medical-priority dispatch system but by buying new ambulances to replace the old vehicles, which break down, and employing more operators to field the increasing number of emergency calls.

Catherine Yeung Po-yan, Kwun Tong

Should schools test pupils for drugs?

I think schools must test pupils for drugs. I support it because I believe it can benefit teachers.

A lot of students do not show respect for teachers. I suspect that incidents in which teachers face the risk of being attacked occur when students are under the influence of drugs.

I think the drug-abuse problem has been out of control for some time.

People who are opposed to such tests point to the need to protect human rights. However, what about teachers who face the risk of assault? Respect for human rights means respecting the rights of all people, including teachers.

Some people argue that the tests should be voluntary. I hardly think it likely that pupils who have taken drugs will agree to put themselves forward for a test. We have a problem with teenagers taking illicit drugs in schools and on beaches. I miss the good old days when the courts could impose stiffer penalties.

Johnny Lee Chi-ho, Cheung Sha Wan

On other matters ...

My cousin who lives in Hong Kong has been urging me to visit him for some years. I am embarrassed to admit that I allocated just one day for this visit, which was finally made in May on a stopover.

I found that Hong Kong has much more to offer than such a flying visit can accommodate.

My first encounter with a local was when I stopped to get my bearings, assuming the typical stance of a tourist, scanning the environment for streets and features that matched those on the map.

In most places in the world, this draws no interest from passers-by (except perhaps the odd rogue seeking to take advantage of a disoriented visitor), but in Hong Kong, I might just as well have waved a flag with 'help' written on it.

I was immediately approached by a local man, who helped me work out a route to the HSBC headquarters, which I was keen to photograph. I headed off to explore the bank building, enjoy a tram ride, view the city from The Peak, visit the Museum of Tea Ware and stroll around Hong Kong Park.

Other encounters with locals included the friendly tram staff and the delightful schoolchildren in the Museum of Tea Ware and in the gardens.

The children were well dressed and behaved. I admit to being impressed. As I wandered around, I was repeatedly struck by the cleanliness of the city, a sense of safety and a general feeling of orderliness.

Hong Kong is a city to be proud of, as the civic responsibility for keeping it clean and attractive appears to be taken seriously. I will be back and will urge others to visit as well. Thank you. It was a pleasure to visit somewhere so welcoming.

Jill Poulston, Titirangi, New Zealand

With effect from July 1, the smoking ban was extended to all Hong Kong's bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

People working in entertainment premises affected by the July 1 extension of the ban have claimed that their businesses will be adversely affected and they are already suffering because of the present financial crisis.

However, they are only thinking about their revenue. They seem to be missing a very important point, which relates to health. They must surely know that statistics show second-hand smoke kills.

These owners should recognise that the health of their employees is more important than increased revenue.

Also, some people have suggested that business might improve with the ban. When it was implemented in restaurants, according to some surveys, businesses did not suffer.

In fact, with the ban in place some non-smokers may now go to bars they would have avoided when people were still able to light up.

It may also be good for smokers, as it may encourage them to smoke less.

R.Hau, Kowloon Bay

I don't smoke and I always avoid going to places where smoke is found.

I am so happy that the tobacco ban has now been extended, because I can spend my money in more places.

When dining out, for example, I don't have to ask for a non-smoking area. Besides, the whole idea of having smoking and non-smoking areas in restaurants was useless.

I was always curious about why some bars and discos were popular with smokers. Now that they are smoke-free, I hope they will adopt marketing strategies that appeal to me.

David Lue Yat-fung, Tuen Mun