Hong Kong has one of the world's best public hospital systems. For a minimal fee, residents get a good standard of health care from well-trained doctors and nurses. It is not perfect - waiting lists can be long and equipment and facilities are not always the best they could be. Nonetheless, we should be more than grateful for what we have and, in consequence, courteous to the staff.
This is unfortunately not always the case. Health workers are primed for physical violence and abuse from patients and their relatives. There were 2,704 attacks on Hospital Authority staff from 2005 to last year. Injuries sustained included bruises, abrasions, sprains, strains and bites.
Hospital is an unusual and unpleasant experience for most people. While there, we naturally consider our own ailment to be of more importance than those of other patients. We expect treatment to be given as quickly as possible so that we can return to familiar surroundings. It is not surprising that stress levels in accident and emergency departments, medical wards and outpatient clinics are high.
But anxiety is no excuse for poor behaviour. Doctors, nurses and attendants are doing their best to care for us. More pressing cases get priority. Just as outside the hospital, we should be considerate and polite.
Health care reform is long overdue. Our ageing population is putting increasing pressure on the public hospital system. People with the means for private treatment are taking advantage of a service they see as saving them money. Resources in some sections have long been at capacity. Other areas are seriously understaffed. Bringing down waiting times is not a simple matter in such circumstances.
Public hospital staff have a tough job. Their work is in most cases not getting any easier. When in their care, we have to be less selfish. We have to be thankful for their help and treat them as we would our relatives and friends.