PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 July, 2009, 12:00am

What do you think of the ambulance dispatch system plan?

I refer to the report ('Staff fears over new ambulance system', July 4). Deputy Secretary for Security Carol Yuen Siu-wai said that 'the main objective of the new system was to provide a quicker response for critical patients'.

Yet the government proposes to give operators a mere 14 weeks of training with only basic first aid. Operators will pose a set of structured questions lasting 15 to 20 seconds and the level of urgency is then determined by a computer software program. Operators are expected to scroll through lengthy options on a laptop and enter all of the relevant information so the computer can make the critical decision on the nature of the emergency. But, in an emergency, 20 seconds are critical.

Time is wasted in putting information into the computer, when it could be better spent listening to the caller and making a decision based on experience, judgment and the operator's gut feeling.

Another concern relates to the timing of events when a call is made. Although a caller may be categorised as in moderate critical condition, there is a significant amount of time between when the call is made and when the ambulance arrives during which the level of urgency can be elevated or decreased.

How are operators to know if a change has occurred since putting in the information?

The job of an ambulance and its crew is to help everyone who requests emergency help, not to respond based on a computer model. This system leaves room for major errors when the caller's answers are put into the system. The caller may be a witness or the person who actually requires medical assistance and, in most instances, will be in a state of shock.

They will probably not be able to answer all 20 questions to the best of their ability and those who cannot communicate clearly will be at a further disadvantage. Several calls come in every day from elderly people who have difficulty describing what is wrong.

It is ridiculous to expect every caller to be able to describe their situation. What happens if no one at the scene of the emergency can speak? Do you categorise it as a critical situation or do you assume it is yet another teenager making a crank call?

I understand that this new system for 2012 will prevent crank callers, but there must surely be more effective ways of achieving this goal without compromising safety and response times.

Liz Wong, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Should the drug rehab centre get the Mui Wo premises?

I felt disappointed by the attitude of some Mui Wo residents and felt sorry for the students of Christian Zheng Sheng College.

I support the college in this matter. I can understand that concerns of some residents about having a drug rehabilitation centre nearby.

However, the Zheng Sheng students have come across as mild, polite and helpful according to those on Lantau who have lived near the centre for the past 10 years.

One person interviewed said he wished his sons could be as well-behaved as the Zheng Sheng students. Therefore, I do not think security would be a problem.

Some Mui Wo residents say they want the building reopened as a school for their children. They say that some of their children have to travel for four hours every day.

However, if there was an urgent need for this school, why did it close? If residents did not want to send their children to the school before, why would they want to do so if it reopened?

The students of Christian Zheng Sheng College made the mistake of getting involved with drugs, but they have been able to get their lives back on track.

They deserve to be given a chance. I hope residents will welcome them if the rehab centre is given the premises.

Tracy Wan, Kwai Chung

Should recovery agents be banned?

I refer to the letter by Valerie Cheung, director of communications of the Law Society of Hong Kong (Talkback, July 9) in reply to my letter (Talkback, July 2).

She did not explain why the Law Society is using protectionist methods to allow debt collectors to flourish while accident recovery agents are prosecuted, when both are using the same modus operandi to do business in Hong Kong.

I believe that accident recovery agents are doing community service by helping people.

I do not believe the temporary helpline provided by the Law Society will be of help. It will draw customers away from recovery agents.

Accident victims need foot soldiers and that is how I see the role of the recovery agents.

These victims do not need a helpline. Lawyers from the Law Society ought to make the effort to meet the victims and give them on-the-spot help, which is what the recovery agents do.

The Hospital Authority has the right attitude. When an accident victim is admitted to one of its hospitals they are operated on without an advance payment.

The Law Society should follow this principle. If it turns out a client cannot pay, then the solicitor can pass the bill on to Legal Aid for payment.

Regarding sharing compensation awarded, if the world's wealthiest democracy can live with the 'no win, no fee' principle, then why can it not operate in Hong Kong?

I do agree with Valerie Cheung that the fees the recovery agents charge are too much. However, the law makes it difficult for them to earn an honest living. If the restrictions that presently exist are removed, then more solicitors can become involved and fees with drop.

Lal Daswani, Tsim Sha Tsui

On other matters...

I refer to the CityChat column (July 6).

Operators of Lei Yue Mun's famed seafood restaurants and stalls fear they may have to close when a rule banning them from pumping seawater from Victoria Harbour into their fish tanks is introduced in August.

The government has suggested the restaurants buy seawater from elsewhere and transport it to their businesses, but they argue that this would be too expensive. One stall operator said it would cost an extra HK$80,000 a month.

These businesses have been using harbour water for decades without experiencing any problems. It is pumped from points 100 metres offshore and sterilised. I agree with stallholder, Yip Yun-kwong, that the authorities should focus on the quality of the water they find in the fish tanks, rather than the quality of water in the harbour. Water quality in the tank is the most important factor given that is has been sterilised. If it is deemed up to standard then there is no problem. Mr Yip made a valid point that if the water was not clean enough, the fish would die and he would lose money.

He is clearly more concerned about his business than officials at the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. They only seem concerned about going by the rules.

I strongly suggest our chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, look into this matter so that people like Mr Yip are able to stay in business.

Eugene Li, Deep Water Bay