Thanks for prayer, Mr Tsang but now we want action

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2007, 12:00am

Father of boy in vegetative state complains about care

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has pledged to say a daily prayer for a 12-year-old boy in a vegetative state after learning of his plight in an e-mail from his father complaining about inadequate hospital treatment.

But the boy's family is disappointed Mr Tsang did not say anything about how the government would help him and others like him.

Fok King-hee sent the e-mail to the Chief Executive's Office three weeks ago, describing the plight of his son Hin-chung, who has been in a vegetative state since suffering severe brain damage early this year.

Mr Fok criticised the lack of care for brain-damaged patients in public hospitals and asked Mr Tsang to pray for Hin-chung and other such patients.

About a week later, Mr Fok received a card in which Mr Tsang had written: 'May the love of our Jesus Christ, the healing of his words, and the fruits of his spirit be with you and your family as always'.

Mr Fok said he felt 'a bit comforted' after reading Mr Tsang's card, but also disappointed that there was no mention of how the government could help the family.

'We feel like the system has already given up on Hin-chung. We hope a centralised programme can be set up to help families like us and provide better treatment. We believe in prayer, but we also hope the government can do something concrete,' he said.

A spokeswoman for the Chief Executive's Office said Mr Tsang had promised to pray for Hin-chung because the e-mail had requested it.

She said Mr Tsang was not a doctor and did not know what treatment would be best, but the Hospital Authority would follow the case.

Tim Pang Hung-cheong, of the Patients' Rights Association, said brain-damaged patients were often abandoned by the medical system.

With the help of the association, Mr Fok and members of seven other families, including the wife of injured police officer Jacky Chu Chun-kwok, who is in a semi-vegetative state, will meet Hospital Authority chief executive Shane Solomon next week to express their concerns.

The families complain that public hospitals do not provide alternative treatments, nursing care and physiotherapy for brain-damaged patients. Patients' families were often 'advised' to take them home rather than have them occupy hospital beds.

The families hope a special medical centre can be opened for brain-damaged patients.

Patients were not given any treatment other than basic nursing and infrequent physiotherapy, Mr Pang said. 'In one case, a patient has been in coma for almost three years, but no neurologist had been to check on his condition and make a diagnosis,' he said.

Raymond Cheung Tak-fai, professor of neurology at the University of Hong Kong, said such patients usually achieved maximum recovery in six months to a year.

'We encourage the families to take the patients back home for long-term care, where the environment may actually be better than the hospital. We don't mean to force them away, but the reality is some other acute patients may need the beds as well,' he said.

A Hospital Authority spokeswoman said coma patients and those in vegetative states would be given appropriate care and effective treatment.