Much room for improvement in our hospitals
I went to medical school in Australia 30 years ago. After graduation I worked in public hospitals over there for more than 10 years.
Some of their common practices made good sense.
When a patient was prescribed an intravenous form of a particular medication which he had no prior exposure to, then the first dose was administered by a doctor.
If the patient developed a potentially fatal anaphylactic shock, a doctor was available and could respond immediately.
Also, when there were two patients with similar names in the same ward (for example John Smith and Jon Schmidt), then special precautions would be taken.
Warning labels were attached to their medication charts just to remind the staff of the potential danger of these patients getting the wrong prescriptions.
I have yet to see these simple and sensible precautions being taken in our hospitals in Hong Kong.
There was also a difference with regard to blood transfusions.
I remember vividly the first day we reported to work as interns at the hospital in Australia.
There was a doctor who acted like a drill sergeant and berated us for half an hour. For him, the most indefensible kind of medical negligence was being guilty of mixing up blood transfusions.
Therefore, there was an elaborate system of double checking at every stage before a transfusion.
The overhaul of Hong Kong's transfusion service took place only a few years ago.
Health service developments in different places go at their own pace, depending on social, cultural and financial circumstances.
In Hong Kong there is to be an accreditation exercise of the public hospital system, involving overseas experts. I support this as a means of improving our medical services. But there is an inherent danger of a servile dependence on an arbitrary, outside authority. In Hong Kong we have our own traditions and values, which we should not abandon.
The Hospital Authority must realise this and not overlook the importance of recognising the self-respect and the dignity of our working doctors. Overseas experts can show us the way. But ultimately we must be willing in the health care sector in Hong Kong to sail into uncharted waters when it is necessary to do so.
Dr Timothy Wong, Happy Valley
Confusion over public access
In view of the recent arguments about public access to 1881 Heritage in Tsim Sha Tsui, Times Square and various other heritage sites, I would like to report another case.
I was very disappointed to find that The Pawn's roof in Wan Chai has become another commercial enterprise that members of the public can't enjoy.
On the afternoon of Saturday, December 12, I wanted to visit the roof garden of The Pawn restaurant, but found it was closed for a private function. There was a notice saying it was closed for such functions on December 12-13 but, according to press reports, it is public space.
I went to the Urban Renewal Strategy Review office in Wan Chai, where they confirmed that it was open space.
I returned with my family and, when we got there, we found other Hong Kong residents on a guided tour who also wanted to see the roof of The Pawn.
We were not allowed to visit. We were told it was a private venue, and that sound systems and seating had to be set up for an event that night.
Since then, I have learned that such restricted public access is quite a frequent occurrence.
I am a Hong Kong citizen and I pay taxes. What right has anyone to tell me that I cannot enter a heritage site that was renovated as part of a Hong Kong government project?
The government appears to be allowing businesses to operate these sites - such as The Pawn and 1881 Heritage - as purely commercial enterprises. It would appear that we cannot visit these places unless we are willing to patronise their food and beverage outlets.
The administration has to make it clear whether or not public access does exist at these venues. I expect to receive an answer, through these columns, from the relevant department.
Miranda Tsang, Mid-Levels
Good relations under threat
Public concern has been expressed about the number of teenagers in Hong Kong who are taking illegal drugs.
The government has attempted to address the problem by introducing drug tests in schools. I totally disagree with this scheme. If I refuse to take a test, I will be singled out by teachers and by classmates and their parents. It will harm the relationship between teachers and pupils and between fellow students.
We have had no detailed information about this scheme. However, from what I do know, there would appear to be a lack of after-test support, and the government does not seem to have any plans about how it will relieve the heavy workload of social workers.
We need to be given far more information about how the scheme operates before I will be willing to support it.
Heung Ka-leung, Hung Hom
Limits imposed on upper house
Peter Lok, a frequent contributor, has once again sought to bolster the democratic legitimacy of Hong Kong's functional constituencies by pointing to the unelected nature of the upper house of the British parliament ('Give everyone an 'entity' vote', January 9).
However, as many of your readers will be aware, the powers of the British upper house are rather limited. In general terms the House of Lords can delay legislation for only a year before the will of the elected House of Commons prevails. Would Mr Lok accept the same restriction on the power of functional constituency members?
Paul Stables, Chai Wan
What drives post-'80s group
I am writing to share some thoughts on the activism of the post-1980s generation.
I am from this age group and have found that some officials and commentators have mis-interpreted their activism, thinking these young people are only responding to the lack of job opportunities available to them.
The people who hold this view do not understand what motivates young people to take to the streets and protest.
It is true that, with the expansion of university places, graduates from the post-1980s generation face fiercer competition in the job market.
However, what drives them is a belief in justice and fairness and the conviction that our political system is undemocratic.
The collusion between the government and businesses is blatant. And the gap between rich and poor is getting wider. We should appreciate the efforts of those who stand up and voice their disaffection with social injustice and unfairness.
Michael Ko, Sham Shui Po
Mainland has image problem
I refer to the report ('Milk scandal kept secret for a year', January 8).
Mainland officials 'kept food safety concerns about a Shanghai dairy a secret for nearly a year'. The authorities justified this delay because the case, involving tainted milk, was 'under investigation'.
Many of the food products we consume in Hong Kong come from the mainland, so food safety issues there are very important to us.
The incidents of contaminated food have increased in recent years. This has raised health concerns about produce coming from the mainland.
I urge the authorities there to pay greater attention to this issue, especially when it comes to dairy products.
As readers will recall, tainted milk can cause kidney stones and kidney failure.
In this regard, the mainland has an image problem. If Beijing wants to see confidence restored in its exports it must ensure manufacturers stop producing contaminated food.
Ngai Ka-ying, To Kwa Wan
Efficient service at consulate
My experience of renewing my passport at the British consulate was quite different from Bob Beadman's ('Long wait for new passport', January 12).
I needed to travel urgently for a funeral last May and the staff were efficient, helpful and able to fast-track my application.
My waiting time on both visits was not unreasonable (and I took a book to read).
However, it would be unreasonable to evaluate the efficiency of a service based on one event in 10 years (the normal validity of a passport). Maybe Mr Beadman was unlucky and I was lucky.
American spelling on the TV information, however, is a concern and I hope the consulate can check the relevant video.
Allan Dyer, Wong Chuk Hang
Let Cable offer free channel
There has been some debate about whether cross-media-ownership rules should be relaxed so that Cable TV can have a free-to-air station.
Cable TV is a pay-TV station and many people do not subscribe to it because they do not want to pay the fees.
Some individuals, however, do purchase code-breakers so they can watch pay-TV channels illegally.
Fewer people might resort to these methods if Cable had a free-to-air station, so that viewers could watch it without paying, just like ATV's and TVB's channels.
Tommy Chan, Sha Tin