Elderly patients arrive at 5am to make sure of getting a coupon for a consultation The health minister yesterday received a first-hand glimpse of the lengths elderly people will go to in securing a place in the long queues that form outside government health clinics every morning. First in line at Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital outpatient clinic in Wong Tai Sin, when York Chow Yat-ngok visited at 6.15am, was Wan Yee. Mr Wan had been there since 5am to get one of the 40 coupons issued each day to patients over 70 for a consultation. But even that was not enough - Mr Wan told Dr Chow he had gone to the clinic at 11pm the previous night to put a bag on a seat outside the clinic to save his place. He had then gone home for a sleep. It is a common tactic used by the hundreds of people who queue outside clinics every morning. They place personal effects such as umbrellas, newspapers, plastic bags and soft drink cans on the empty seats - using the same tactic if they have to leave to use the toilet during the long wait. Mr Wan was one of about 100 people waiting outside the Wong Tai Sin clinic - waiting for it to open and start issuing coupons at 8.30am - when Dr Chow arrived. 'I want to make sure I get a coupon,' Mr Wan told the minister. He visits the clinic every two months because of his high blood pressure. Dr Chow's visit came ahead of today's debate in the Legislative Council on a motion calling for shorter waiting times at government outpatient clinics - a long-standing problem. Dr Chow said adding resources would not ease the problem. He said it would be more effective for the clinics to better manage their appointment systems, such as arranging ongoing appointments for the elderly and chronically ill, reducing the need to queue for coupons. He said clinics should classify patients into categories according to their health and set aside places for acute and emergency cases. 'When patients need pre-appointments [for follow-up treatment], it should be determined by doctors. We would not interfere with doctors' decisions,' he said. When Dr Chow arrived, about 10 elderly patients and members from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong held a demonstration outside the clinic to protest against the long waiting times in clinics. DAB Wong Tai Sin district councillor Maggie Chan Man-ki said the problem was due to a lack of resources. Ms Chan appealed to Dr Chow to 'widely open his eyes' and 'use his heart' to feel how much patients suffered due to the long queues for public medical services.