PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 July, 2009, 12:00am

Should patients be charged for ambulance services?

Life is precious and every second can make a difference.

I appreciate that the government wants to introduce a three-tier mechanism for ambulance services for the sake of providing a quicker response for patients in critical condition.

Even so, I have reservations about charging for ambulance services with the aim being to deter people from making frivolous calls.

For one thing, there are practical difficulties. Who should be held responsible for the fees and how much would be charged for each trip?

Would people from the grass roots be charged less?

If the government really intends to set lower fees for people on low incomes, officials would have to undertake background checks and this would involve substantial administrative costs.

We also have to question the ethics of charging for ambulance services.

It would be like charging critically ill patients before they went into surgery.

People on low incomes could suffer a lot financially.

They might hold back from calling for an ambulance until their condition became serious.

This is very dangerous, especially because these people do not possess paramedical knowledge.

Given the financial recession, the poor are already experiencing difficult times.

If they get sick, the government should pamper them with love and care.

More importantly, if the government really wants to put a halt to frivolous calls, it should increase penalties so the fines act as a deterrent to people.

The government doesn't need to rely on charging for ambulance services. I do think it would be better to impose fines.

I understand that the government is trying hard to help those who are in the most genuine need.

However, officials should think very carefully before charging people for ambulance calls.

Mandy Lai, Tseung Kwan O

On other matters ...

Residents of MacDonnell Road and nearby areas of the Mid-Levels have often enjoyed playing games at the basketball court situated on Garden Road, near Coda Plaza.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department erected a sign at the court entrance, stating that half of the court had been temporarily closed from June 22 to August 5 in order to facilitate work.

Even though the chain-link fence of the basketball court was close to the adjacent residential block named Lodge on the Park, which is due for demolition, I am baffled as to why the department would close half of the court to allow the contractor to use the open space as a works site.

Is this a new government policy to assist private development projects while sacrificing the public's right to enjoy the only leisure facility in the area?

I would have thought that under normal circumstances, it was solely the developer's responsibility to figure out how to overcome site constraints and to carry out construction work safely.

I am concerned that the authorities would grant consent given the circumstances as I have described them.

The demolition work will probably take nine months or more. What kind of traffic disturbance should residents expect to have to put up with on MacDonnell Road, which is narrow?

For those who are not familiar with the area, I would like to point out that although the postal address of Lodge on the Park is 4 Kennedy Road, vehicular and pedestrian access to it is only available from MacDonnell Road.

Lastly, I have read a report that Cheung Kong has purchased the site and will replace it with a 40-storey tower block.

I am concerned that the government has co-operated with Cheung Kong to such an extent that it has no qualms about partially shutting down a public amenity, causing traffic chaos and disregarding the height restrictions in Mid-Levels imposed by the Town Planning Board.

Time and again, I have observed how ordinary people are forced to accept a progressively poorer environment, while a few privileged private developers reap the economic dividends. Is this the kind of society we want for our future generations?

What role have members of the Central and Western District Council played in this project?

Helen C. Ma, Mid-Levels

I write regarding the problem of illegal street racing in Hong Kong.

Does anyone care that most young men and many grown-up ones too, enjoy high-speed racing?

Some people may even be addicted to this kind of activity.

Many people within the car industry have requested that a track be built so that this kind of racing can be carried out in a law-abiding manner.

But so far not one bit of land has been allocated for these lovers of speed. There should be some kind of track where these addicts can get their fix but in a way that is legal.

I can suggest lots of quiet, unused roads in Hong Kong which could be cordoned off for this purpose.

People talk about how dangerous racing can be, and I suppose there are some men who feel the need to risk their lives by driving at high speeds.

In a free society they should be allowed to take these risks, as long as they do not pose a risk to other drivers. They would not pose such a risk if there were a designated track that they could use.

I think having such a track could solve the problem of illegal racing in Hong Kong.

Nigel Lam, Kowloon Tong

I refer to Anthony Green's letter (Talkback, July 23) again requesting a non-emergency number so that the public does not have to misuse the 999 system.

I can already predict the police's response, which will be that members of the public are encouraged to pick up the 'police contact card', available at all police stations, which details the telephone numbers of all police stations across Hong Kong.

However, the list of numbers is actually confusing.

If I wish to report a large piece of debris in the middle of Tuen Mun Highway, should I dial New Territories Traffic South or North?

If I have a dispute with a shopkeeper on Temple Street, should I call the Yau Ma Tei number or Tsim Sha Tsui?

Even more bizarre, once, when stopping a beat constable to report a case of obstruction caused by illegal parking, he politely thanked me for bringing it to his attention and encouraged me to call the police if it happens again in future.

What number should I dial, I asked him. His response highlights the failure in the system. '999', he said.

G. Marques, Lai Chi Kok