MY TAKE
My Take
by

There’s no place for VIP treatment at Hong Kong’s public hospitals

Thanks to people like Tam Yiu-chung, ordinary people who have no choice but to visit public hospitals will question whether their inevitably long waits are fair and aren’t partly caused by VIPs jumping queues.

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 June, 2016, 11:06pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 June, 2016, 8:56am

It turns out you don’t need to be the chief executive to get special treatment. Being the former head of a large political party will do.

Tam Yiu-chung, former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, underwent a minor operation to remove a polyp near his ear at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Without naming Tam, hospital officials have acknowledged they are investigating why a patient was allowed to jump the queue and access staff-only areas. He was put in the first slot for an operation that day while he and his wife accessed and waited in restricted areas for staff only. They might have breached sterilisation protocol.

DAB lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung apologises again for receiving VIP treatment at hospital

Senior managers claim they have no prior knowledge about the VIP treatment and that “workers” themselves made the arrangements.

It’s a good thing they admit the arrangements were inappropriate, not to say unfair. Tam most likely paid the minimal fees charged at public hospitals, instead of the thousands of dollars at a private one.

He denied asking for special treatment. But how about refusing it? He claimed the doctor did it for him because “he knew that I was very busy”. Is that how you get served quickly at public hospitals, by telling them you are busy?

What an ingrate! The doctor did him a favour and now most likely faces official reprimand, but Tam said the doctor did it on his own.

Tam’s operation may be minor, but you and I should be very angry because we all have occasions to make use of public medical services and who knows how long we have to wait? This could be the difference between life and death.

At a time when resources and manpower are stretched, waiting times have lengthened for most medical services at public hospitals. Those who don’t want to queue may go to private hospitals and pay out of their own pockets. No one can fault you if you pay for special treatment.

But thanks to people like Tam, ordinary people who have no choice but to visit public hospitals will question whether their inevitably long waits are fair and aren’t partly caused by VIPs jumping queues.

That’s why hospital officials must get to the bottom of this and institute safeguards against such abuses.