NOT good enough,'' is the verdict of environmentalists, legislators and the public on Government action to solve the problem of medical waste washing up on Hong Kong's beaches. Three weeks ago, top Government officials, including Secretary for Health and Welfare Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien, senior Hospital Authority officials and representatives from the Urban Services Department (USD) and Regional Services Department (RSD) met for ''a few hours'' to set up an inter-departmental working committee to look into the problem. So far, it has met only once and has yet to schedule another meeting. Mary Chow Shuk-ching, the principal assistant secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands, who convened the October 6 meeting, said yesterday: ''I think we are on a steady programme and I am satisfied with the progress to date. ''It is a priority now. We can't move on all fronts. ''We have to have more confidence in people, their understanding of the situation and their sense of responsibility towards medical waste, especially the medical profession. It's a highly respected profession. ''This will be an interim measure until proper legislation comes into place.'' But environmentalists, legislators and residents say ''this is just not good enough''. Even though doctors may be following recent guidelines set out by the Hong Kong Medical Association, the Government has yet to do its part of separating the medical waste. United Democrat legislator Michael Ho Mun-ka is to raise the issue with Mrs Wong this week and call for the Government to step up its investigation. ''If the Sunday Morning Post can manage to trace some of the medical waste, why can't the Government with all its resources close at hand?'' Mr Ho said. ''It is quite ridiculous and I will be approaching the Secretary for Health and Welfare to find out why this inquiry is stalling.'' The Government has been called on to introduce immediate legislation to control the dumping of medical waste after its principal environmental protection officer, David Wong Pak-wai, admitted there were no laws dealing with clinical refuse. ''The USD and the RSD can fine people caught dumping clinical waste as a littering offence,'' he said. But ''people are falling over medical waste left, right and centre. This problem will never go away and I cannot believe the way the Government has acted over this important issue - it has been quite appalling'', said Lisa Hopkinson, from Friends of the Earth. ''Legislation must be changed immediately. I am shocked that there is nothing in place.'' Ms Hopkinson called for new regulations to be established similar to the legislation controlling chemical waste: ''We definitely need the same regulation for the disposal of medical waste. By that I mean a code of conduct, regular monitoring, inspectionsand new guidelines.'' The Hong Kong Medical Association, which recently set up guidelines for the disposal of medical waste by doctors in private practice, accused the Government of ''dragging its feet'' over the issue. ''Medical waste is a serious problem and a health hazard, yet the relevant departments fail to see it as that,'' an association spokesman said. ''As soon as medical waste started turning up on our beaches the Government should have brought in new legislation which would severely punish the culprits and not just give them a slap on the wrist.'' But Mr Wong said ''the reality is we have had just so much to do for the last few years that we haven't been able to address all waste control measures''. ''We're concerned whether clinical waste is being properly managed at present and what we should do to remedy the situation and what specific action the relevant departments should take to make sure it does not happen again,'' he said. ''A lot of clinical waste, especially private waste, is not being handled in a manner which is good enough. ''And we are very interested in how the waste gets from refuse collection points to the beaches but our conclusion is it's extremely difficult to track down.'' The USD is responsible for collecting and transporting urban waste to landfill sites, while the RSD deals with waste in the New Territories. At present, the management offices of residential and office blocks arrange for domestic and commercial waste to be collected and then transported to refuse collection points. They often use private contractors to collect and transport the waste. The RSD or USD then transports waste from these collection points to the nearest landfill. Medical waste from hospitals is supposed to be separated from domestic waste and put into special red plastic bags. It is then collected separately by the USD using a special truck which transports it to a landfill or incinerator. But a Sunday Morning Post investigation earlier this year revealed the USD was not complying with this guideline and was collecting and dumping domestic and medical waste together. Mr Wong admitted ''there are so many people involved in handling waste that it is difficult to keep track of it. With this lax management at the moment all sorts of things can happen. ''We can't point a finger at the RSD or the USD. In a large bureaucracy a few guys get lazy.'' But Mr Wong dismissed suggestions some of the waste was being washed into the ocean from landfills near the sea. ''A lot of landfills are by the sea but we have built a sea wall and then the landfill is reclaimed behind that wall so as far as disposal is concerned if it is delivered properly, it cannot wash over the landfill into the sea,'' he said. ''There is no question of that happening. ''It is always difficult to determine the source and only if we are lucky enough to find a label can we trace it to the source.'' Last month, in another special investigation carried out by the Sunday Morning Post, medical waste found at the ungazetted Rocky Bay Beach in Shek O was traced to a private surgery in the New Territories. When contacted, the private clinic and others in Yuen Long, Tuen Mun and Sha Tin complained there were no guidelines on how to dispose of their medical waste. Many doctors admitted mixing medical waste with household rubbish. ''At the moment there is no specific or separate arrangements made for the collection of clinical waste especially for private clinics and medical laboratories,'' Mr Wong admitted. But United Democrats legislator Dr Conrad Lam Kui-shing said: ''I don't think private doctors or clinics are going all the way to a beach to dump their waste. The Government must look closely at its own departments. ''The Government has a responsibility to find out who is dumping this waste and a responsibility to provide a medical waste collection service for both the public and private sector. ''It was not too long ago that the USD refused to give special consideration to provide a medical waste collection service for private practices. ''This problem has been going on for several years and I am very disappointed the Government is still failing to come up with a solution.'' Liberal Party legislator Moses Cheng Mo-chi said: ''What will it take for the Government to take this issue seriously?'' Dr John Hodgkiss, of the University of Hong Kong's Botany Department, said: ''This is a very serious problem in terms of the stuff that is being washed up and there is the threat of kids mucking around with this stuff like syringes and swabs. It worries the life out of me quite frankly.'' David Lindsay, who lives in Clearwater Bay and uses the Sheung Sze Wan beach regularly, said: ''About every six out of 10 times I go down there, I find syringes. ''One day when I went down, there was a bale of blood bags washed up on the beach, about 50 of them tied together so they were obviously supposed to have been dumped somewhere. ''What were they doing on the beach? ''Residents are now really concerned about having to go down to the beach with their kids and then having to spend the entire time watching where they walk in case they come across an armed syringe.'' Lai Yau-fuk has swum every day since he was a child at the Sai Wan beach in Sai Kung but in the past two years his early morning ritual has been spoilt by having to step over and then swim among the syringes and medical waste floating in the sea. ''At least 10 syringes can be found every day, especially when the wind is blowing and they float in the sea,'' the 66-year-old swimmer said. ''I'm scared of being pricked by the needles but all I can do is be careful. So I no longer walk barefoot on the beach.''