Hong Kong's public hospitals are excellent
Amy Wu, in her column ("Health benefits", January 24) extols the value and the standard of the private health care system in Hong Kong, going as far as to say that she was "fortunate to have got sick in Hong Kong".
I agree, but I would also extol the value and the standards of our public health care system.
I can write as a doctor who worked for many years in public hospitals; as a justice of the peace whose duties include unannounced hospital visits; and finally as a recipient of Hong Kong's health care. It never even crossed my mind to go anywhere else when I needed "cold" abdominal surgery, and the care when I subsequently broke my leg was first class. If you are a permanent resident in Hong Kong, this is at minimal cost and offers amazing value.
Of course, there are challenges and these are shared by many countries - financing health care for an ageing population, increasing chronic diseases which are expensive to treat, manpower shortages, a disproportionate emphasis on cure rather than on prevention, and things sometimes do go wrong, as anywhere.
But Hong Kong's health statistics are among the best in the world, whether it be infant mortality, life expectancy or our lowered smoking rates. Of this we should be truly thankful.
Dr Judith Mackay, Clear Water Bay
Crack down on excessive use of car horns
Hongkongers have a love affair with the car horn that is obsessive and unruly.
It's high time the government put the brakes on excessive horn use, reduced noise pollution and brought civility to our streets.
We are a city of impatient, angst-ridden drivers who think that laying on their car horns is the only way to deal with traffic issues. Why can't we take a lesson from Thai drivers who rarely use their horns, but flash their headlights instead? Japanese drivers are far more civil as well. Many American cities have laws to control this nuisance.
Horns should be used only in emergencies or when reasonably necessary to ensure safe driving.
They should not be used in anger, frustration or to try to magically clear a traffic jam. Hong Kong's worst offenders are taxi drivers. Many of them illegally replace the car manufacturer's horn with a louder one, exacerbating the mega-decibel assault on our ears.
The government urges drivers not to use car horns unnecessarily, but this does nothing to abate the noise.
I believe we need to legislate fines for excessive use of horns, with police writing tickets on the spot for offenders, along the lines of the recent car idling legislation. And perhaps we can create horn-free zones like no-parking zones.
Whatever we do, we need to stop this flagrant noise pollution and preserve our hearing and our sanity. I propose starting an action group - Citizens Against Noise (CAN). Who wants to join me?
Jon Resnick, Central
Recyclable material is collected
Judith Ritchie raised concerns about waste collectors mixing recyclables in recycle bins with refuse for disposal ("Recycling efforts are undermined", December 23).
Waste reduction and recycling top priorities in our waste management strategy. We visited the residential estates under complaint. Both property managers reassured us that recyclable and refuse are separated by their waste collectors. However, the collection bags are all black in colour and may have caused confusion.
We have requested the property managers to consider alternative arrangements such as using nylon bags or other types of containers to collect recyclable materials. The management company should also put up a notice near the recycle bins with the recycler's name and collection schedule to reassure residents that the recyclables will be collected properly.
We agree that mixing recyclables with refuse would discourage residents from recycling. Property managers should provide proper training to cleaners and arrange site supervision to avoid any misunderstanding.
If people observe any irregularity on the handling of recyclables collected, they should inform their property management company or contact us (2838 3111) to follow up. We will continue to step up the implementation of source separation of waste.
Wong Tung-kong, principal environmental protection officer, Waste Reduction and EcoPark Group, Environmental Protection Department
High rents problem must be dealt with
Skyrocketing property prices are affecting the livelihoods of Hong Kong citizens.
There is an urgent need for the government to act to ensure people pay affordable rents for decent apartments. At the moment, some families will find that much of their income has gone on rent, and there is not much left over for other necessities like food.
Also, there are problems for citizens who have to live in cubical dwellings while, at the other end of the scale, people profit from property prices being abnormally high. This means that the gap between rich and poor is getting wider.
The government needs to build more public housing and accelerate the speed at which estates are completed.
Li Tik-sze, Ma On Shan
Elderly need community pharmacies
I agree with those who have suggested that the government should set up more community pharmacies.
They are very common in some countries, for example, the United States, and especially in those societies which have an ageing population.
Hong Kong has an ageing population and so it should follow suit.
A community pharmacy will accurately dispense drugs and it would also offer some counselling.
Having them in place can ensure that elderly people who are in care homes get the right medication and correct dosage.
In addition, a modern community pharmacy will provide other health services such as mother and child care and family planning services and they should be offered free of charge so that people below the poverty line can get the care they need.
Although setting up this network of pharmacies will be expensive, the government should still go ahead.
It would mean better health care and it would also offer more job opportunities.
Ho Chien-chang, Sha Tin
Talking can help to ease tensions
Arguments between Hongkongers and mainland visitors are becoming quite common.
There are social issues at play here and cultural differences can also be a cause of conflict. People need to calm down and try to communicate with each other and defuse tensions.
There is also the political factor, with Hong Kong citizens being concerned about political interference from the mainland.
Local people are also concerned about prices of some goods rising, such as milk formula, as mainlanders come over the border to make purchases in bulk.
However, we should bear in mind the positive angles. We buy a lot of our daily necessities from over the border, such as water, food and some clothing. When Hong Kong take its allocation of water, for example, some Guangdong citizens may experience shortages. Therefore, we should not complain so much. We should see both sides and think of how mainlanders view us.
Also, we should not forget the benefits Hong Kong derives from doing business with mainlanders, especially in the tourism, trade and logistics sectors. This provides many job opportunities and income for Hongkongers and strong trade links help fuel economic growth.
We should not discriminate against mainland visitors. Instead, we should all try to get on with each other.
If there is potential disagreement, people should try to calm down and, as I said, try to communicate with these people. In this way, disagreements and arguments can settled. It is possible for both sets of citizens to aim for a better relationship.
Crystal Chan Yuen-ying, Kwai Chung
Plea for more information on farm plan
Andrew Lam Siu-lo, an urban planner, is not at first glance the sort of person who would engage in long-term organic farming in a remote scenic location.
Yet, according to him ("Work on west Lantau farm hits legal snag", January 23), that is what he is doing. And it is not just any old farm. He says that "he has reached agreement with Yi O's village landlords, who no longer live there, to set up a farm for 30 years".
This is a long time indeed for a new venture of such fraught uncertainty. Perhaps Mr Lam could answer some questions for me, through these columns. I would be interested to know what is written on the lease document. Can he assure readers that there is no provision for the development of, for example, a tourist complex comprising a resort hotel, housing, and a water sports centre?
Such projects would be appear to be more in his line, as an urban planner, than a farm.
Clive Noffke, Lantau