PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 September, 2009, 12:00am

Hospital chiefs are to blame for low morale

As a middle manager in a Hospital Authority hospital, I was upset by comments made on television by Undersecretary for Food and Health Gabriel Leung on the medical incidents at North District and Prince of Wales hospitals.

At Prince of Wales a nurse gave a baby a dose of antibiotics meant for another baby, and at North District Hospital a terminally ill breast cancer patient was mistakenly injected with morphine meant to be taken orally ('Wrong baby given drug; staff told to cut errors', August 30).

As a rule, the authority's head office has a policy of transparency regarding all medical incidents in public hospitals.

Staff, overwhelmed by their workload, are asked to report any incidents, from a lost pill to a missing patient. But the response is the same. The administrators appear at a press conference the next day and condemn the health care workers for their carelessness. As a doctor who has worked in the public service for more than two decades, I empathise with the low level of morale felt by colleagues toiling night and day, fighting a never-ending war against the H1N1 influenza outbreak.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen cuts civil servants' pay. However, it is unwise to cut the salaries of medical staff who are, in effect, like soldiers in a war zone. The government ignores the fact that there has been a brain drain, from the public to the private sector, of experienced nurses and doctors in recent years.

They are leaving for a number of reasons - a deteriorating working environment in public hospitals; little chance of promotion; a mounting workload, and the administrative arrogance of the authority's head office. What can the disgruntled health care workers do if their voices are not heard?

Experienced staff, with a higher market value, will accept job offers from the expanding private medical sector.

When these blunders happen in public hospitals, the head office consistently presents a negative image. The usual response is to apologise and blame frontline workers. To the undersecretary, I would say, yes Professor Leung, we all come to work in hospital with a genuine sense of commitment. But maybe after you had fed hundreds of children after a long shift, you might give the wrong bottle.

It is time for the administration to review the workload and environment in public hospitals rather than drafting pages of guidelines. Officials must listen to staff at the sharp end of the service.

Dr K. Cheung, Sha Tin

Medical errors a wake-up call

The recent medical errors have led to a lowering of public confidence in hospitals. It is important for staff to draw lessons from these mistakes.

Such errors are preventable and hospital staff must take responsibility for their actions.

I think more stringent guidelines are required, and there must be stricter vetting of doctors and nurses seeking appointments in the public sector.

Qualifications are one thing, but candidates' personalities and attitudes must also be assessed to ensure they are suitable. This kind of vetting is undertaken in Britain and has proved to be successful.

Ngan Ho-ting, Tai Po

Promotion of Games is poor

The East Asian Games will be held here in December and it is obvious that citizens are showing less passion regarding the event than they did last year for the Beijing Olympics.

Of course, the December event is on a much smaller scale, but I also think that lack of promotion has been an important factor.

Because publicity has been inadequate, many Hongkongers are still unaware that the Games are taking place. We all knew the date of the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics and followed the different construction stages of the stadiums. Because there was so much promotion we were looking forward to it.

An additional problem is that there is a fairly weak sporting culture in Hong Kong. People are more concerned with intellectual achievements than sporting success. This prevailing attitude presents a hurdle that has to be overcome, but it is difficult, because time is running out.

However, there are things we can do to get people interested and we should play to our strengths. Hong Kong has a good communications network and a well-developed infrastructure. Also, we are experienced at holding large-scale events.

More promotions should be launched now so that an increasing number of citizens become aware of the Games. I want this to become an event we can all be proud of.

Celia Chan, Kwun Tong

Why regime will not listen

I refer to the article by Tin Maung Maung Than ('A smarter form of Myanmar engagement', August 31). How do we get this oppressive regime to follow a more humane line? Must it again fall to the US to solve the problem?

The embargo strategy is full of holes. As long as Myanmar can trade with India, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, the regime will not change its ways. Embargoes generally fail, but there are cases when they have been effective. They worked in Rhodesia when its major backer, South Africa, withdrew support for Ian Smith's government.

If we genuinely want to see change in Myanmar, pressure must be put on the governments supporting the generals; otherwise, we are wasting our time.

Stephen Anderson, Macau

Wrong language

I view the fatal shooting by a policeman, in Ho Man Tin in March, of Hong Kong citizen Dil Bahadur Limbu with very great disquiet indeed.

The inquest on the fatal shooting, due to open on Monday, will be heard in Cantonese ('Protest over inquest language', September 2), as opposed to Hong Kong's other official language, English - a language the family of Mr Limbu [a Nepali] is accustomed to.

This is reprehensible and should be remedied forthwith by the government department concerned. Hong Kong has perhaps been a beacon of humanity, brotherhood and understanding over many years and we should all strive to keep it that way.

K. J. R. Borthwick, Pok Fu Lam

Idol worship

I received a call asking if I had heard the 'big news'. 'What?' I asked. That Sarah Palin was coming to town, or why we should all be hightailing it out of here?

No, replied my friend, the big news was that Hong Kong entertainers Andy Lau Tak-wah, Leon Lai Ming and Miriam Yeung Chin-wah had been 'outed' for being secretly married.

I asked what was the big deal. My friend explained that I 'didn't understand how Chinese people think'. I'm not too sure about that, but what I don't understand is this perverse fascination with gossip and pettiness.

Now that these three 'secret marriages' have been 'unmasked', why is this headline news, especially in the Chinese newspapers?

The fact that it is, probably explains why mediocre local entertainment 'talent' continues to rise to the surface, why there is so much senseless idol worship and why so many in Hong Kong have got life's priorities completely wrong.

Hans Ebert, Mid-Levels