Government department's role so important

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 July, 1994, 12:00am

I FOUND C. K. Lau's article headlined, ''In business to service government'' (South China Morning Post, June 21), an interesting piece of research on the economics of engineering support for government through the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department.

Towards the end of the article it was hinted that there may be other considerations than economy. I would like to mention one.

The Government procures medical electronic equipment from around 100 different suppliers. The subsequent maintenance by those suppliers varies from the superb and expensive to the minimum required to keep things going - if that. But medical equipment is not like a computer or a table lamp, or even a car.

It is frequently connected directly to the patient's body where the smallest leakage of electrical current can be extremely hazardous, particularly to someone who is already weakened by disease or injury. Furthermore, machines contaminated with blood have to be serviced under extremely rigid conditions.

For this reason, the department has a highly professional maintenance team whose criteria involve much more than economy - they are concerned with patients' lives. The strict international standards on medical electrical safety are their bible.

It is not easy to control the variable maintenance staff of the multitude of suppliers, because there is no set standard of practice for technicians who are not professional engineers. The latter have a registration system that supervises their quality of practice. Not so for non-government technicians in general practice.

I understand moves are afoot to arrange for registration of sub-professionals in the engineering fields (just as nurses are registered in the health care field), but until that happens, I would urge the utmost caution towards any suggestion that might be interpreted to relieve the department of its maintenance responsibilities towards medical electronic equipment in the government hospitals, for which economy is an important but secondary factor.

SAMUEL P. W. WONG Legislative Councillor Engineering Constituency