The central government said yesterday that it would provide free medication to children who had fallen ill after drinking contaminated milk powder and said most of them would not develop long-term problems after receiving treatment. A Hong Kong-based expert in public health, however, cautioned that extensive monitoring was needed to make sure there was no other complication apart from kidney and bladder stones. Gao Qiang , party secretary of the Ministry of Health and head of an inter-ministerial team handling the crisis, said all who developed stones would get free treatment. Quoting medical experts, he said these patients would not develop long-term problems if they were treated at an early stage. He said the ministry would send medical workers to remote rural areas to find and treat ill babies. Emily Chan Ying-yang, associate professor at Chinese University's School of Public Health, agreed that patients suffering stones would not suffer long-term consequences if treated properly. But she said kidney and bladder stones could be just the early symptoms and it was unclear whether the melamine in the baby formula would cause other problems in the long term. 'First of all, the patients suffering from stones should be treated because these patients are vulnerable to long-term complications such as renal failure,' she said. 'But ... long-term tracking of the health conditions of those who drank the milk is necessary to head off because some long-term complications might not be found yet. 'It is the responsibility of the government. In other countries, they may track the condition of people for 12 months, 24 months or even for years.' Fees for treatments are high, especially as most patients are poor and from the countryside. Zhou Na, mother of a nine-month-old boy who has been ill after drinking Sanlu milk, said she had spent more than 10,000 yuan (HK$11,400) for treatment.