The $150m trust fund pool is dwindling, with hundreds of victims still suffering; four have reached the $500,000 limit The nightmare for Sars survivors continues as they worry about the government abandoning them to face impoverished futures in ill health. While all are afraid of losing financial support when their individual limits in the special Sars fund are reached, some are accusing the government of planning to sweep them aside despite their disabilities. Hundreds of the 1,404 Sars survivors are still suffering serious side effects from steroid treatment. These include memory impairment, osteoporosis and the crippling bone disease known as avascular necrosis (AVN), which is caused when blood stops flowing to the bones, leading to the death of bone cells. AVN affects mobility and causes pain. Survivors may also suffer lung dysfunction, caused by the virus' scarring of the lungs. The $150 million Sars Trust Fund was set up in November 2003 following patient and social pressure to give families of the deceased a one-off payment and monthly payments to survivors. Many who are suffering serious side effects from steroid treatment can no longer work and have to rely on the government's fund for living and medical expenses. But the fund has a $500,000 limit for each individual, meaning that one day, no matter what the state of their recovery, their support will run out. Four people have reached their limits, according to the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau. One of them, Ms Ching - a name chosen to protect her anonymity - says she received her last payment last month. 'I am so worried. How can I support myself and my parents, who are retired and have no income?' says Ms Ching, 33, still sick, who needs $2,000 to $3,000 a month to buy Chinese medicinal supplements. Yip Hing-kwok, a Kwun Tong district councillor who helps the victims from the Sars hot spot at Amoy Gardens, urged the government to provide for the victims in the long term. 'They have lost their ability to work because of Sars. If the government had handled the Sars outbreak better, it might not have been so widespread, and not so many people might have been infected. It has a responsibility to help them,' he says. According to some Sars patients, the authorities have been tightening approvals for the renewal of applications in their half-year health assessments - rejecting many, while delaying others. The Hospital Authority rejected the criticism, saying that as time passed more people would recover and fewer would need financial support. But Tim Pang Hung-cheong, of Patients Rights Association for the Society for Community Organisation, disagreed with the authority. 'Some will never recover and will be unable to work ever again. How can the government set up a limit when they don't know the outcome? What is their future with the money is gone?' Sars first emerged in southern China in late 2002 and struck Hong Kong in March the next year. By the end of the outbreak in June 2003, 1,755 people had been infected locally and 351 had died.