Letters to the Editor, December 7, 2012

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 4:24am


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Steep medical fees demand explanation

Many Western countries face difficulties balancing their budgets. One of the biggest factors is the ever increasing cost of health care, with a greying population and the development of better but expensive medicines and treatments.

In many Western countries, it is the state that picks up the bill.

In Hong Kong, we have two health care systems: the public system, which is virtually free of charge but has long queues and waiting times; and the private system, where you get treated immediately but where access is exclusively for those who can afford it or have good medical insurance.

What amazes me about the private health care sector in Hong Kong is its billing structure.

When you are admitted to hospital, you can choose between three types of rooms: a ward with six beds, a semi-private room with two beds and a private room with one bed.

Logically, the price for a private-room bed is approximately five times that of a bed in a ward. What is not so logical is that when you choose a private room, all medical fees are also doubled or tripled - even if the operation or procedure is the same for all patients.

You don't get a golden operation room with golden scalpels studded with diamonds.

The extra cost is briefly mentioned in admission papers but when you ask why this is so, you get a blank stare or not enough information.

I would like to know whether the health authorities are aware of these practices and whether they approve of them. If they do, maybe they can explain why we have to pay up to three times the cost of a procedure just because we prefer to recover in peace in a private room.

We do not need doctors or hospitals ripping us off.

I am looking forward to an explanation from the authorities or any of the private hospitals who practise such exorbitant billing.

Jeffry Kuperus, Clearwater Bay


Ability, not race, matters at hospitals

I take strong issue with Regina Kwong's statement ("Expat influx no cure for hospital woes", November 30) that foreigners will not solve the shortage in Hong Kong's health system.

In her letter, she takes a common Hong Kong protectionist stance.

Having served in the management of New York University's Langone Medical Centre in Manhattan, where more than 40 different nationalities work in harmony in a far busier environment than Hong Kong's, I know safety standards are what count - not ethnic differences.

Langone has 23,000 employees from all over the globe. My staff of 25 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees included Russians, Peruvians, Chinese (from Hong Kong), Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, African Americans, Poles, Irish Americans and some whose nationality frankly I do not even know.

New York practises a policy of blind hiring based on ability, not on nationality or country of origin.

Also, Hong Kong's private hospitals do not have peer review for fear of doctors losing patients, and so are not held accountable. The public health care sector is a leftover from Britain and needs revamping with fresh blood. Money does not solve all problems, madam.

It is valuable in health care to have people questioning systems constantly.

I would caution the leaders in Hong Kong to examine the system carefully before they laud it. I have been here for a decade and I am pretty familiar with health care in Asia.

There are some very good people in the system but then there are some very misguided ones who are not helping Hong Kong grow or even maintain the status quo, much to the city's detriment.

David Schneider, Sai Kung


Copying Japan will pay off for China military

The news that China has completed flight tests on the aircraft carrier it purchased from Russia ("China announces successful flight test on aircraft carrier as it unveils new fighter jet", November 25) reminds me of previous successes of Japan in this field of military effort.

In the last century, Japanese warlords realised that to control the Pacific Ocean and to confront the United States, they needed aircraft carriers.

Admiral Yamamoto clearly foresaw the role of carrier-borne aircraft in naval warfare, so he secretly trained his naval aviators to use shallow-running torpedoes in preparation for the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour. He also adopted American general Billy Mitchell's dive-bombing tactics against warships.

We must congratulate the naval arm of the People's Liberation Army for imitating Japanese, British and American military prowess after so many decades.

We must also congratulate Russia for selling the warship and modern weapons to the PLA. Someday, China will be able to sell even more advanced versions around the world.

Imitation is the sincerest from of flattery. The Chinese navy should continue to imitate Japanese innovations in this field since shared advances in weaponry are the surest way to promote peace and cooperation between nations.

Very often, today's enemies are tomorrow's friends. The Japanese and Chinese navies should co-operate to rule the Pacific waves.

J. Garner, Sham Shui Po


Music culture lacking a unique voice

I refer to the article by Vanessa Lee ("Psy's song a wake-up call for pop stars", November 7).

I share the same view that pop stars should think more about what the audience really wants to see in order for the artists to succeed.

Although Korean culture is trendy and K-pop songs are very popular, there are still many people in Hong Kong who dislike it. They think we should support local culture instead of comparing it with others and pointing out flaws.

However, some believe local culture is not reflected in Hong Kong music. It is obvious that most of the songs in Hong Kong have a similar melody and they share the same theme. It makes people doubt whether the songs are originally created by Hong Kong people or not.

Also, Hong Kong is known by some as a music industry copycat because of the lack of innovation in some music videos by new artists.

What Hongkongers really want is to create their own musical culture instead of just following trends without adding any unique element. If this creative goal can be achieved, it will not only increase the popularity of Hong Kong music, but a home-grown Psy might also appear here.

Scarlet Wong, Sha Tin


All gone quiet on air travel into space

I was interested to read about Reaction Engines ("British firm claims victory in developing space plane", November 30) believing its Sabre engine is a first, which could take air travel into space.

The Skylon still exists only on paper but it would be a sensational invention if and when it happens. This leads me to wonder what is happening with the space plane that Richard Branson of Virgin has told us about.

Mr Branson has, according to some news sources, already taken deposits from prospective space flight passengers and I've read that development of his "spacecraft" is close to completion.

Perhaps someone could update us on the Virgin space development programme.

Peter Olsen, Lantau


Let supply and demand rule TV market

There are currently two major free-to-air TV stations in Hong Kong with one, TVB, dominating the advertising market.

There has been a blaze of controversy as to whether or not the government should issue new licences to prospective TV stations to increase competition.

Frankly, as one taking little interest in TV, I've been rather satisfied with its financial, news and current affairs programmes. However, housewives and TV addicts have thought otherwise, and, with their demands for mushy serial dramas, set the tone for TVB to win the ratings battle.

On balance, it's up to the business community to decide whether it's worth their while to enter the TV market, and it is for the government in turn to cater for demand.

Peter Wei, Kwun Tong


Bosses must do more for migrant labour

The scandal of China's migrant workers has left them overworked and under-protected from industrial accidents caused by shoddy equipment and little or no training or safety supervision ("Maimed in China", November 21).

Since millions of people strive for a smaller number of jobs, factory bosses hold the upper hand and can set wages unreasonably low.

Workers will not quit their jobs easily, knowing it will be difficult to find another at wages that can support their families.

I think that these mainland employers have behaved very badly in this way and have been extremely selfish.

If workers are injured in accidents on the job, employers should be responsible and pay their medical bills.

Po Yiu Au-yeung, Tsuen Wan