Letters to the Editor, July 4, 2016

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 July, 2016, 4:47pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 July, 2016, 4:47pm

Palliative care in HK must be expanded

I refer to the article, “End-of-life care in Hong Kong severely lacking, doctors warn” (June 22), where the shortage of palliative care specialists in Hong Kong was highlighted as being critically low.

The scope and purpose of palliative care is arguably more significant than identified and the lack of care providers therefore more severe than first thought.

It is a common misconception that palliative care is only for the terminally ill. In fact, palliative care is a globally recognised approach to improving quality of life for patients and their families from the time of initial diagnosis.

Derived from the word “palliate”, meaning to relieve or lessen without cure, this specialty treats pain and other physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of people living with ­cancer and other chronic ­illnesses. Its importance as a medical specialty is endorsed by the World Health Organisation and research shows palliative care can positively influence patient outcomes.

Ideally, palliative care consultation should be integrated into treatment plans to ensure quality of life for patients and their families from the onset of medical intervention. Why then, is Hong Kong so inadequately providing this service to patients in need?

There are over 28,000 cancer diagnoses made each year in Hong Kong (according to the Hong Kong Cancer Registry). The Cancer Fund’s focus is to help these cancer patients and their families to manage the ­disease, both physically and psychologically.

However, cancer is only one of the many chronic illnesses requiring care on top of the needs of our ageing population.

The shockingly low number of palliative care specialists you quoted alone advocates for the genuine need to expand palliative care to the public sector as an essential medical service for anyone living with serious ­illness.

Without ensuring ongoing quality of life for patients, the provision of medical treatment becomes an arguably redundant and costly endeavour.

Chow Sau-fong, head of service, Hong Kong Cancer Fund

Tougher fire safety laws long overdue

The blaze which claimed two firefighters’ lives and put others in hospital has put fire safety standards in industrial buildings in the limelight.

There are approximately 650 industrial buildings aged more than 30 years in the city, and many of them, including the 66-year-old Amoycan Industrial Centre where the blaze happened, are exempted from ­having to have fire sprinklers.

Questions have been raised over whether there is a need for older buildings to be legally ­required to get a fire suppression systems installed. A rethink on the issue is warranted.

Sprinklers, which are used worldwide for fire suppression, discharge water when a fire is detected. They have proved to be successful in containing over 90 per cent of fires indoors. In conjunction with other fire suppression systems, like hoses and fire dampers, a fire can be tamed almost immediately.

Whenever a fatal fire occurs, there are more calls for the need to tighten fire safety rules. In 2010, the relevant government departments pledged to examine the need to tighten fire regulations in industrial buildings following a blaze which claimed a senior fireman’s life in a factory building in Cheung Sha Wan. Regrettably, planned regulations have gathered dust.

Under existing legislation, building plans or approval ­permits are not needed for ­storage areas in industrial buildings, meaning the authorities have no idea of the number of units in these buildings being used and rented out for mini-storage purposes.

There is clearly an urgent need to strengthen fire regulations for these industrial buildings, not least because they are used for a multitude of purposes.

Precautionary measures should never be taken lightly. The mini-storage users should declare what items are stored and flammable and explosive items should be strictly prohibited. Spot checks and inspections of the use of storage facilities should also be done on a regular basis.

While the government has urged the public to make better use of industrial blocks across the city, it must assume a leading role to show it means business when it comes to safeguarding people’s lives and property. How many more fatalities will it take until officials are spurred into action? We can’t put an end to each and every fire accident, but at least we should reduce potential hazards.

Matt Kwok, Wong Tai Sin

Deal with stagnant water in park

I write to compliment the ­Leisure and Cultural Services Department for the graceful ­design of its Cornwall Street Park. However, I feel obliged to ask why the pumps are not turned on so that water flows down through its attractive multi-layered ponds.

It would seem idle for the government to urge residents to help prevent mosquito breeding, if it allows water to sit stagnant in its own parks.

Tony Miller, Tai Po

Referendum helps reach a consensus

I disagree with the headline in Alex Lo’s column, “Referendums: democracy’s Achilles’ heel” (June 27).

In a democracy – the word is a composite of demos and ­kratos, or “people” and “power”. Citizens vote in favour of a party or parties that will represent them and, hopefully, adequately manage their country.

In a modern democracy where opinion polls are available, the government knows whether the measure that it intends to take is agreeable to the majority; if the issue is unclear, it has a duty to consult the population, and a referendum helps reach a consensus. If the majority of voters is against the measure, it must be dropped by the government. In Switzerland, the population is regularly consulted on various issues.

Also, it is misleading to say that “by turning extremely complex questions into a yes or a no”, a referendum “treats citizens like little children”. Pretending that citizens are incapable of understanding issues is typical of a dictatorial regime – not a democracy. The arrogance of European elites is the fundamental reason why populism is growing. There are thousands of so-called “experts” in Brussels and elsewhere who made governments take wrong decisions. Think of the Greek financial ­crisis, and nonsensical response to illegal immigration.

Referendums are the best democratic tool used by truly democratic governments.

Francois Moirez, Stanley

More help needed for at-risk shops

In May, it was revealed that the construction and retail sectors were the worst hit in terms of Hong Kong’s unemployment figures.

This reflects the economic problems Hong Kong is experiencing. The situation will get worse as new graduates look for work and some infrastructure projects are delayed by filibuster tactics in the Legislative Council.

Hong Kong is well known as a flourishing international city. However, its economy is experiencing slow growth and this is a problem.

Young graduates and young people with skills in trades ­wanting to start careers in the tourism and construction ­sectors face an uncertain future. Legco has ­discussed the city’s ­labour problems many times. It has to come up with a package of financial measures to help these sectors and devise policies which attract investment and more tourists. With stronger ­demand, the unemployment rate will drop.

Increasing the demand of different sectors can help us to overcome our problems. Furthermore, it will improve Hong Kong’s image in politics and the environment, which is also important. When a city or place becomes unstable, the economy will definitely be ­affected.

To sum up, the situation may not improve in the short term if we do not look into the matter quickly and seriously.

Iris Law Ka -yee, Kowloon Tong