Hospitals 'unwilling' to offer Chinese options

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2007, 12:00am

Quadriplegic Tang Siu-pun has criticised public hospitals for being too conservative and unwilling to integrate Chinese medicine into rehabilitation treatments.

Mr Tang was paralysed in an accident 16 years ago and has been in Queen Mary Hospital since. He wrote to then-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa in 2003, pleading to be allowed to die.

The 38-year-old recalled that, seeing little improvement after his first few months of treatment in the hospital, his family 'smuggled' in a Chinese medicine practitioner to try acupuncture.

Outsiders were forbidden to treat patients in the hospital, so the family drew the curtain around the bed during the acupuncture, trying to keep it secret. But the treatment was stopped after a few months because Mr Tang did not show significant progress and because of the risk of being caught.

Some hospitals now provide acupuncture, but the patients must first seek endorsement from their western medicine doctors.

Mr Tang said: 'Hospitals have not improved much in introducing more alternative treatments over the years. They are lagging far behind their mainland counterparts, who usually combine both western and Chinese medical treatments.'

He said western medicine practitioners were unwilling to share with their Chinese counterparts in order to protect their profession, limiting patients' choices.

Mr Tang also said public hospitals did not provide enough physiotherapy to paralysed and vegetative patients. In the past, he was offered only about five minutes of physiotherapy two or three times a week. Since his letter to the chief executive, the hospital has extended his physiotherapy sessions to about an hour each time.

'It's probably because I have become famous now,' he joked, adding that it was also because doctors allowed him to move about more in his wheelchair instead of just lying in bed.