Letters to the Editor, July 11, 2016
Backing new patient reps for council
Without a doubt, Hong Kong has been proud of its high-quality medical service, especially the unselfish doctors who safeguarded the city during the 2003 Sars outbreak. But on the other hand, the Hong Kong Medical Council has been criticised for its inability to handle complaints in an efficient way.
There are currently over 900 pending cases, with an average of five years to complete a case, meaning some cases could take longer before justice can be achieved, not forgetting a regular figure of nearly 450 new cases each year.
For the first time, three patient representatives are to be elected among various patient groups to sit on the Medical Council as lay members. However, doctor groups are accusing the impartiality of patient reps because their appointments are to be made by the chief executive, so they will probably represent the government interest. With respect, I disagree.
First of all, patients are users of medical services and their voices should be respected. Secondly, as patient reps will be elected so they will have to convince their voters how they could uphold the interests of patients and maintain independence throughout their term of office.
I urge the doctors to lay their political opinions aside and work together with patients to make a healthier city.
Alex C. Y. Lam, chairman, Hong Kong Patients’ Voices
Desperate need for doctors from overseas
I sincerely hope that lawmakers will pass the necessary legislation to allow the Hospital Authority in particular to employ overseas trained/experienced doctors as soon as possible.
There has been a huge and critical vacancy rate in the authority’s hospitals in recent years, which the output from local institutions could never address in the short term.
The shortage is not just in junior ranks while experienced authority doctors leave for the private sector. Which is why we must recruit overseas trained and experienced medical doctors, as has been done in the past. I do not understand why it can be assumed that any of the overseas medically trained applicants , especially from Australia, Canada, Singapore or the UK, could be considered as not meeting local medical standards. As health minister, Dr Ko Wing-man has emphasised they would have to meet the standards, and fixed-term contracts can ensure that positions are not blocked when we have a healthy recruitment locally. I think we may assume that Dr Ko has no less interest in quality and safety in medical practice than the president elect of the Medical Association.
I should imagine that most doctors demonstrating against the proposal were from the private sector, anxious to protect their high salaries and promotion prospects while the public are deprived of timely services urgently needed. Lawmakers must take responsibility to ensure the vacancy rate is significantly reduced.
Additional Medical Council members can work towards greater accountability of the council, speedier action and more transparency. Practising doctors on the council may have little time, and lose money when spending time on investigations. All of these matters need to be openly addressed.
The council has an important function, not only in serving the interests of its profession but more importantly in protecting and serving the public efficiently.
Tom Mulvey, Wan Chai
Hospital crisis must now be addressed
During the cold weather in February, with so many cases of flu, and other patients with chronic conditions needing treatment, public hospitals were inundated and were stretched close to breaking point.
It made me very worried about pressure being placed on these hospitals and how the shortage of beds during this time of the year adversely affects patients.
This is happening every year and leads to very long waiting times for most patients in crowded accident and emergency units.
Some have complained of having to wait for days, not just hours, before, if needed, they could be admitted to a ward or see a doctor for medicine, if their case was classified as not being urgent.
I think this is quite a serious problem and I am concerned that next year it could be even worse.
If they are overloaded with patients, doctors might struggle to be consistently efficient.
Also, a big workload will put them under so much pressure, that mistakes might become more common.
The government needs to recognise there is a problem and it must build more public hospitals and employ more doctors.
Also, citizens have to act responsibly.
They should ask themselves, if they have a cold or flu, if they really need to visit a hospital, or if they can treat themselves by visiting a pharmacy and buying their own medicine.
Anson Ng Tsz-hin, Tseung Kwan O
Education can help patients act responsibly
A number of articles have been published highlighting the problem of public hospitals being starved of resources.
I think the government should tackle the problem of human resources in public hospitals first.
Citizens only pay a fraction of the hospital bill and the government pays the rest.
This means these public hospitals are full to capacity. Many doctors find they have had enough of this workload and so they move to the private sector where the workload is less and the salary is higher.
When a public hospital is really busy, for example, during flu season, patients might have to wait for up to 10 hours before they are seen by a medic. There is a lack of human resources in these public hospitals.
People call for more public hospitals to be built, but there are not enough doctors and nurses for the hospitals we already have.
Their salaries should be increased to try and keep them in the public sector.
Also, the government should educate the public, so that they act more responsibly. Some go to a hospital for a minor complaint like a cut finger, when they could deal with the problem themselves, by washing the wound and putting on sticking plaster or a bandage.
They should only go to a public hospital if they are feeling really unwell and realise that they really need to see a doctor for treatment.
Through these methods the pressure on public hospitals can be alleviated and they will have a better environment for patients who really need help.
Yoyo Sin Tak-yiu, Sha Tin
We must spend less time on our mobiles
More people in Hong Kong are now developing eyesight problems.
I think this has in part due to more people purchasing smartphones and staring for longer periods at screens.
You see so many people in the street with their eyes glued to the screen of their phones. And these eyesight problems are becoming more serious.
People need to be aware of the potential problems that exist and try not to stare at their mobile and computer screens for too long.
Also, sometimes people read with insufficient lighting and this can lead to them becoming short-sighted.
When people are reading an article, they should not be too close to the page and they should ensure they have sufficient lighting.
Also, people need to stop if they have been reading for a very long time and rest their eyes for a while. They need to take regular short breaks like that.
Chow Wai-yan, Kowloon Tong