PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 September, 2009, 12:00am

Do you have confidence in the public hospital system?

Many Hongkongers will have been concerned about the mishaps in our public hospitals. Questions have been raised about the quality of staff. However, I think the root of the problem is to do with the number of workers in the hospitals. We also have to focus on the management of the Hospital Authority.

Staff face a heavy workload and a great deal of pressure. They are responsible for taking care of patients, who can sometimes be difficult, and many also have administrative duties.

However, there is a shortage of labour, with people having to switch between day and night shifts. The authority needs to implement reforms and it must adopt long-term measures.

There must be closer monitoring of staff and all working procedures looked at closely. And to relieve the pressure, more staff must be hired. A review of policies should begin as soon as possible.

Ally Chan Lai-man, Fanling

Dr Fung Hong, the chief executive of the New Territories East cluster of hospitals, has suggested that the lack of team spirit among frontline staff is a key factor when identifying causes for the medical blunders ('Medical mishaps blamed on lack of team spirit', September 2).

If this is the case, perhaps the hospital chief can suggest ways to lift team spirit and improve morale. I have doubts about such a suggestion.

The cruel fact is that some health-care staff cannot cope with the demands of the job.

What they have to do is to follow a procedure and, frankly speaking, when you have to repeat a certain procedure more than 100 times a day, it should become automatic and there is no excuse for getting it wrong. We should not cover up or excuse medical blunders.

Hospital chiefs should, as a matter or urgency, organise proper training for staff and those who do not perform well should be sent packing.

H. C. Bee, Kowloon Tong

Should children get 15 years of free education?

I refer to the letter by Germain Ma (Talkback, September 8).

I agree that education is important and that is why the government gives 12 years of free education to young people. I do not think there is any need for change.

Some people argue that families on low incomes cannot afford to send children to university. The government does offer subsidies, so students from poor families who are good enough to get a place at a tertiary institution do not have to miss their opportunity.

Your correspondent believes we can learn from some European countries.

She says: 'Finnish parents do not have to worry about having enough money to educate their children.'

The present system in Hong Kong is a lot better than the way things used to be not so long ago and the situation here is better than in many countries.

I agree that children are the future pillars of society and I think the Education Bureau can make improvements, so that students become more competitive.

One way of doing this would be to introduce small-class teaching.

There is no need to have 15 years of free education in Hong Kong.

Victor Yung, Sheung Shui

What do you think of the revisions to the drug testing scheme?

The school drug test scheme has now been modified ('Changes keep police out of drug testing', September 4).

Part of the reason for the changes is concerns about students' privacy. However, I think the revised scheme is not worth supporting. We should be trying to ensure that this scheme is effective. The aim of the new measures was to take drugs out of schools; to curb drug-taking among our students, and stop it spreading.

However, with the modifications, I believe it will be ineffective. Pupils can now refuse to take the test and will not be required to undergo counselling.

I am concerned that those abusing drugs will simply refuse to submit to the test. The revised scheme gives too much freedom.

Also, without police intervention, the scheme has no deterrent effect. Those students who decide to take drugs deserve to be punished. They should not expect to be outside the reach of the law.

The original scheme could have helped them learn an important lesson that applies to us all - that you have to take responsibility for what you do.

Jonathan Chan, Hung Hom

I do not approve of the revised voluntary drug-testing scheme.

The government rushed the release of the pilot project in the vain hope that by doing so, it could deter more students from taking drugs. When loopholes are exposed in regulations, people often put the blame on insufficient preparation.

I am not so sure about this, but I am sceptical about the effectiveness of the scheme. Why do adolescents take drugs? Most teenage addicts study in secondary schools. They will have been told about the consequences. Therefore, I do not think it comes to ignorance.

Some impulsive youngsters have heard the messages and seen the adverts about the risks involved in taking drugs, including getting arrested, but they have pushed the warnings to one side.

Deterrence does not seem to be effectively tackling the problem.

Singapore saw a significant drop in numbers of its young addicts after launching its drug testing scheme. But Singapore is not Hong Kong.

First, the scheme in Singapore is mandatory. Second, the Singaporean students are generally more obedient than we Hong Kong teenagers.

The threat of punishment may be more effective in the Lion City. However, just because such a scheme worked in Singapore does not mean it would be effective in Hong Kong.

I am a curious teenager but I have never taken drugs. It has nothing to do with the threat of punishment. It is simply because I believe curiosity is a good thing if handled responsibly.

Some young people turn to drugs because they have done badly at school. Society places too much importance on academic results.

The government should allocate more resources so that schools can set up more extra-curricular activities. This could help curious teens discover their potential and hobbies.

Their self-esteem will be boosted and they will stay away from things which could ruin their lives.

It will take time to get positive results. But if the talents of young people are nurtured in this way, it will be a more effective method of dealing with the problem of teenage drug abuse.

Phyllissa Chan, Hung Hom