PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 July, 2009, 12:00am

What do you think of the proposed ambulance dispatch system?

Triage is slightly more involved than a straight 'first come first served' system. However, it is the normal, contemporary way to run an ambulance system.

Under triage, an ambulance heading to pick up someone with a dislocated shoulder might be diverted to, say, pick up a snake bite victim who is in a life-threatening situation.

This seems like common sense. I can understand the reluctance of staff to go along with changing their ways. They are probably afraid that the trainers will be idiots, the system will be too complicated and that they will be put in the field before they are ready. This is a strong possibility.

Transfer to a triage system must be handled very carefully. I noticed the 'order of operations' listed ('Staff raise fears over new ambulance system', July 4), was already unnecessarily complicated and I am worried that the government's love of bureaucracy will ultimately botch up the functioning ambulance system that we do have.

Eleanor Jones, Stanley

I am afraid the proposed ambulance priority dispatch system will become yet another government policy that seems brilliant in theory but is a complete failure in practice.

The current abuse rate of our ambulance service is quoted at around 40 per cent ('Frivolous 999 calls may lead to user fees, official says', July 4).

I suspect most of the people who do abuse the service are aware that ambulances should be reserved for emergencies.

Simply fine-tuning the ambulance dispatch system will not address this fundamental flaw.

Australia is a country where generally people take their civic duties seriously.

In Sydney, I saw a man being taken to a hospital by ambulance, supposedly with 'severe chest pains'. On arrival at the accident and emergency department, the man miraculously recovered, hopped off the stretcher and walked out. He happened to live quite near the hospital.

This is obviously an extreme example of abuse, but if someone is determined to take advantage of the ambulance service, no telephone interviews will stop them.

In fact, treatment of those in genuine need may actually be delayed because of the screening questions during the phone interviews.

The only way to curb abuses of the ambulance system is to charge a nominal fee. This can be waived if it becomes clear that the case was a genuine emergency.

After some initial resistance, the public accepted the nominal charge at emergency departments in Hong Kong's public hospitals. It is time for a similar system for our ambulance service.

Edmond Wong Man-lok, Ho Man Tin

Should parents take care of their own retirement?

As a Chinese teenager, I believe I have the responsibility to support my parents after I graduate from school and get a job. However, I have to accept that this may be difficult if I am on a low salary and have difficulty even looking after myself. Low pay may explain why many sons and daughters do not support their parents after they have retired.

Therefore, I agree that parents should save a certain amount so that, if necessary, they can take care of themselves when they have retired.

Also, society has changed. In the past, families in Hong Kong were large. Nowadays, couples only have one or two children. Looking after elderly parents can place a heavy financial burden on these children. Adults must take this into account when they start a family and ensure that with proper planning they have saved enough for their retirement.

However, young people should not neglect their responsibility towards elderly relatives and they must do the best they can.

Helen Chan, Sham Shui Po

I think children should feel obliged to look after their parents. It costs a lot to bring up a child and parents have to make a lot of sacrifices. They do so unconditionally.

Parents will spend a lot, for example, on education, paying for tutors to improve their children's academic performance in the hope that when they grow up they can get good jobs.

Therefore, it would be unacceptable for children to abandon their parents when they retire.

Surely, after several years of higher education, young people have high enough ethical standards to be able to appreciate their responsibilities.

Looking after your parents when they have retired is a way of showing your respect for what they have done and the devotion they have shown to you during your childhood.

Frederic Lam Hei-wai, Kwun Tong

On other matters...

In his column (July 1) on the tobacco control movement, or 'Tobacco Taleban' as he calls them, Tim Hamlett has missed the point entirely. Tobacco control 'fanatics', according to him, exist just to cause inconvenience and misery to smokers, curbing their rights and exhibiting an 'arrogant intolerance for other people's preferences'.

What about those of us who prefer to go out to public places and not have carcinogenic tobacco smoke blown in our faces and absorbed into our clothes, hair and lungs? When, until now, has our preference been taken into account?

I agree with him on one point. People are entitled to make their own decisions, and to engage in risky behaviour is an individual's choice.

But a person who jumps off a tower with a cord tied to his ankles, or who drinks excessive amounts of alcohol, is not inflicting his choice on anyone else.

A smoker in a public place is.

Smoke-free areas are not intended to punish smokers. They exist to protect everyone, especially workers who do not choose to be exposed to the risk of developing deadly illnesses.

I am amazed how many people jump on the 'freedom of choice' bandwagon and prioritise freedom for smokers above everyone else.

To say that anti-smoking campaigners do not know what makes people smoke and that 'they do not care about people' is ludicrous.

The UN's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control calls for advertising bans and increased taxes because, in a nutshell, the illusion of glamour and cheap cigarettes is what encourages people to start.

Neither do these campaigners see smokers as 'dumb'. Smokers are the victims of a corrupt tobacco industry whose despicable tactics are well documented, including giving free cigarettes to children in developing countries, deliberately increasing nicotine levels to increase addiction (where's the choice in that?), paying for smoking scenes in movies and bribing scientists to manipulate findings.

All for a product that, if it was new on the market today, governments would not hesitate to ban. I would have thought that as an academic, Hamlett would be more familiar with the large body of evidence these 'fanatics' have hugely in their favour.

Ellie Rampton, Sai Kung


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