Letters to the Editor, February 4, 2016

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 February, 2016, 4:42pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 February, 2016, 4:42pm

Doctors have fair access to practise

I refer to the article by Mike Rowse (“Doctors must swallow their bitter reform pill”, February 1) in which he claims that ­doctors who qualify abroad and wish to practise in Hong Kong “run into a buffer of the protectionist wall that the Medical Council has thrown up to deter them and others from doing so”.

Up until the early 1970s, qualification depended on reciprocity.

A doctor who qualified in most of the Commonwealth universities was recognised as being able to practise in Hong Kong, and importantly a Hong Kong doctor could practise under those jurisdictions too.

When the UK joined the EU a Spanish or Italian doctor, for ­instance, could practise in the UK but a Hong Kong doctor could not practise in Spain or Italy. The Hong Kong Medical Council responded by limiting reciprocity to those who held a qualification with the home list of the UK.

My understanding now with the change of the colonial power from UK to China is that a doctor who qualified outside Hong Kong can be deemed to be qualified if he works at a university or for the government health ­service but not in private ­practice.

This seems to me to be ­eminently reasonable. After all, a Hong Kong qualified doctor would have no chance at all of registering with any state in the US.

Dr Brian Apthorp, Shouson Hill

Shisha even riskier than cigarettes

I agree with the views of Seki Chan (“Don’t overlook harm of shisha smoking”, January 29).

Besides the statistics ­provided by Ms Chan, shisha [or hookah] smoking has other harmful health effects.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, smoking shisha is ­actually more harmful than smoking a cigarette. According to the CDC, the amount of smoke inhaled during a typical shisha session is about 90,000 millilitres, compared with 500ml to 600ml inhaled when smoking a cigarette.

Furthermore, according to the American Lung Association, a study of shisha smoking found that nicotine and cotinine ­increased up to 250 per cent and 120 per cent respectively after a typical 40- to 45-minute smoking session.

Another potential problem is that commonly used heat sources for burning the ­tobacco, such as wood or ­charcoal, are likely to increase the health risks from shisha use. ­This is because when they are burned on their own these heat sources release high levels of potentially dangerous chemicals, such as carbon monoxide and metals.

Furthermore, the social aspect of shisha smoking with shared mouthpieces may put many users at risk of contracting infectious diseases and viruses, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and herpes. Even if the shisha smoke is second-hand, it is potentially dangerous because it contains smoke from the ­tobacco and from the heat source used to burn the tobacco. There are also harmful effects for pregnant women.

Research has also shown that teenagers who have smoked shisha before are more likely to become cigarette smokers.

I agree with Ms Chan that more people should be made aware of the harmful effects of shisha smoking.

Secondary schools in Hong Kong need to make students aware of the risks so they are not tempted to try out something that is becoming more popular in bars in the city. This should be part of general health education in these schools.

Eunice Li Dan-yue, Singapore

Big freeze a wake-up call on climate

I refer to the report (“City fails extreme cold weather test”, ­January 26).

There is no doubt the government must step up its efforts to deal with days when it is very cold. However, what happened also highlights the fact that ­extreme weather patterns are becoming more common ­because of global warming.

That we experienced the coldest day in almost 60 years should be proof to all Hongkongers that the impact of global warming is a worldwide problem and it affects all our lives.

All citizens need to recognise this and take appropriate action as individuals to support the government’s environmental protection policies and try to ­reduce their carbon footprint. Where possible we should ­purchase local produce in line with the aim of encouraging sustainable development. We should consume less beef and cut our use of air conditioners. If we continue to ignore this ­problem globally, the scenarios described in some Hollywood disaster films could become a reality.

There is a lot more the government could do.

It lags behind Japan and Korea, for example, when it comes to having a comprehensive recycling system. Also, there must be more environmental education in schools so our younger generation have a full grasp of the problems we face.

Christy So, Hung Hom

Online food consumers need safety net

I refer to the report (“Online food sales face regulation”, January 25).

Last year some food poisoning cases were related to online food sales, including imported sandwiches. The licensing system will require online stores offering food such as sushi and sashimi to apply for permits.

The new rules offer more protection to consumers and can reduce the likelihood of people becoming sick because of something they ate that had been ordered on the internet. Hopefully news of this licensing scheme can raise awareness.

People need to recognise the risks involved in ordering some food items online.

Rain Yeung, Tseung Kwan O

Overseas study an attractive alternative

Young people often complain about the difficulty of getting a place at a university in Hong Kong.

There are plenty of opportunities for studying abroad and youngsters should consider the advantages of leaving the city to further their tertiary education. Choosing this option has a lot of advantages.

Degree courses in universities in Hong Kong tend to be career-oriented so that graduates can join the workforce in different professions. In foreign universities youngsters have more choice.

Also, at these colleges they are encouraged to think independently. And living abroad will help students broaden their horizons.

Young people who cannot get a place in a Hong Kong university should think about going abroad to study.

Pokfield Chan, Tai Po

ERP not the perfect solution to congestion

The public consultation process into electronic road pricing (ERP) is ongoing and will end next month.

Under an ERP scheme ­drivers would have to pay fees when they pass through certain parts of the city, such as ­congested urban areas.

It has been adopted successfully in a number of cities, ­including London and Singapore, although the pricing mechanism by each local ­authority is different.

The Hong Kong government is particularly keen to launch the scheme in Central, because the traffic congestion there is so ­serious and causes problems for the many people who are based in offices there.

However, we have to ask if it would be effective in an area of the city like the central business ­district (CBD).

Many professionals who work there are employed on good salaries in large companies and they are generally fairly well-off.

They travel to work by private car because they can afford to do so and it is convenient. They may not be worried by ERP charges and will be happy to pay them so they can continue to drive into and out of the CBD.

The other problem is that if a lot of them did leave their cars at home after the introduction of ERP, they would travel on buses, minibuses and the MTR and this could exacerbate overcrowding on public transport networks.

The best solution is for ­companies to coordinate car pooling so that cars going into the CBD carry more passengers.

Also more flexible working times could be introduced, ­because at the moment most people are travelling to and from work at the same time.

We could also look at the ­system used in some mainland cities where cars have ­access on certain days according to their ­licence plates.

I do hope the government will be able to find ways to ­alleviate the traffic problems and serious congestion in ­Central.

Donald Chan, Tseung Kwan O