Lamma ferry crash

Letters to the Editor, October 16, 2012

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 3:56am

Public medics' efforts are appreciated

I refer to the letter of Dr Jason Brockwell ("Wrong diagnosis in editorial's prescription for doctor shortage", October 9).

We concur with Dr Brockwell that doctor manpower is a complex and multifaceted issue. There can be no single solution to the manpower shortage in the public sector, which faces competition for doctors from the private sector.

To address the current manpower shortfall, I would like to explain our continuing efforts to retain our valuable medical staff as well as to attract new talent.

In response to the reduction in the number of local graduates since 2008, the Hospital Authority has developed a new career structure for medical staff; enhanced the promotion prospects of specialist doctors; improved working conditions, with more supporting staff; enhanced training opportunities; and enhanced recognition of excessive overnight on-site call duties.

To address the issue of staff morale and work stress, we have also introduced a special psychological support programme to help staff hold up under stress, and run courses to help colleagues handle workplace violence.

With all these efforts, the overall turnover rate of doctors in public hospitals dropped from 5.2 per cent in 2010/11 to 4.8 per cent in 2011/12. Even before some 270 new doctors joined the Hospital Authority in July this year, the turnover rate has dropped further to 4.4 per cent in the first four months of 2012/13.

Amid the decline in staff turnover, we will continue with our recruitment efforts to employ more full-time and part-time doctors locally to help relieve the frontline workload. At the end of July this year, there were 274 part-time doctors providing manpower support.

Numbers aside, the manpower shortfall is not evenly spread over different specialties. There are certain specialties, for example, paediatrics and emergency medicine, which have great difficulties in attracting new graduates to join even for maintaining normal operation of services.

By all means, the Hospital Authority has to exhaust all efforts, including overseas recruitment of doctors under limited registration, to ease the frontline workload as an interim measure.

Public hospital services in Hong Kong have been the envy of many countries. The Hospital Authority only consumes half of the gross domestic product spent on health care to take care of 90 per cent of inpatient service, in the backdrop of an ever increasing demand from the ageing population and escalating costs due to advancement in technology.

It is opportune for us to express appreciation to all public doctors who have been upholding the spirit of professionalism and providing a high standard of patient care in this difficult time.

Dr Pang Fei-chau, chief manager (medical grade), Hospital Authority

Government can learn from tragedy

I am writing to express my feelings on the ferry disaster which happened on October 1.

It saddened me to read about this disaster and to learn that the Lamma IV started to sink so quickly. No one could have thought that such a disaster would happen to people who had boarded to see the fireworks display in the harbour.

I think the rescue teams were selfless when they took responsibility for the difficult job of searching for the victims.

I believe the government should look at what preventive measures can be adopted. For instance, the relevant department should provide a sufficient number of life jackets for vessels.

Also, officials should keep a check on facilities on board to ensure everything is up to standard. There should also be more resources for emergency services.

Vanessa Ng, Sau Mau Ping

Education better than tourist quota

Tourism is still very important to Hong Kong's economy.

According to statistics from the Hong Kong Tourism Board, in 2011, the mainland continued to be the largest source of visitors to Hong Kong, with 28.1 million arrivals, and the number is still growing. They also spend billions of dollars while visiting the city.

Therefore, it would not be a brilliant idea to put a ceiling on the number of mainland tourists allowed to cross the border, unless Hongkongers are sick of the economic advantages that go with the growth of tourism.

In fact, there are still other options to assuage public anger over mainland visitors.

For example, the Hong Kong government could impose tougher punishments on pregnant women who try to cross the border without proper permission.

There also needs to be more dialogue between the city's administration and mainland authorities.

They should discuss policies which would raise mainlanders' understanding of morality given that a lack of it is often a cause of friction between mainlanders and Hong Kong citizens.

Ho Chien-chang, Sha Tin

Needs of HK people must be the priority

The large numbers of mainlanders coming here are causing problems for Hong Kong citizens.

Their presence has caused some public anger. The city cannot cope with such large numbers any more. It is unfair to citizens. It would be feasible to determine the maximum number of tourists the city can safely accommodate.

Mainlanders buy a lot of articles for daily use and brand-name goods and, in particular, this is adversely affecting Sheung Shui residents. The mainlanders buy baby milk formula and other goods in bulk, because these products sold in the city are considered to be reliable, but this often results in Sheung Shui residents not being able to purchase what they need in their own town and this is very inconvenient for them.

With greater demand, prices go up and so the rate of inflation increases and therefore this affects not just Sheung Shui people but all Hongkongers. Higher inflation increases the burden faced by the poor.

Mainlanders also put more pressure on our public transport network. The MTR and buses are crowded every morning and they cannot handle any more passengers or the large luggage items they bring.

Hong Kong cannot deal with too many visitors.

Some people argue that if a maximum number of visitors were imposed, many mainlanders would decide not to come here and spend their money. However, we must treat the needs of Hongkongers as a priority.

Mandy Lee Man-shan, Sha Tin

Consultation forum was not genuine

A well-attended public forum in Sheung Shui to discuss the development of three new towns in the northeastern New Territories was more like a propaganda show than a public consultation. The secretary for development dodged questions from the floor and just repeated the government line.

The so-called consultation forum was merely a public relations exercise to dress up the issue. Such closed-door power plays leads to greater public discontent.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying says the proposal will help deal with the city's housing shortage and denies it will be earmarked for wealthy mainlanders. However, most of the land for residential use will be low-density individual homes aimed at Shenzhen residents. Only a small proportion will be for public housing. The government must take the blame for this.

I believe the administration will eventually establish a special economic zone with visa-free access for mainlanders. The official consultation document talks of further economic and territorial integration between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. An enormous shopping centre with many luxurious brand-name shops will probably be built catering to mainland citizens and which we do not need.

The government claims plans have been drawn up for years but villagers who fear their homes could go have only recently learned of this threat. Preserving farmland is important in Hong Kong. We should strike a balance between reserving valuable land and urban development.

This is a large area of land and it should be utilised wisely, with the administration responding to local needs.

Karen Lee Ka-ki, To Kwa Wan

Means-tested help for some ESF students

I agree with those correspondents who have praised the English Schools Foundation for doing a great job.

However, the crux of the matter is that the education offered by the ESF is essentially no different to that offered by other international schools, and therefore to subsidise the ESF while denying the same subsidy to these other internationals schools is discriminatory.

Such discrimination was acceptable under the colonial government, but a post- colonial administration without any ties to Britain cannot and should not tolerate such discrimination.

The sensible solution is to set up a fund and award means- tested help to needy students on an individual basis, students who for cultural reasons find it very difficult to attend the mainstream government-funded schools.

P.K. Lee, Tung Chung