Sunday, 21 December 2008

Enough is Enough

I thought I knew enough of the highly bureaucratic, and most of the time, ossified administration of Hong Kong on both personal and professional fronts. Yet I still couldn't help flung into puzzle and unbelief when I read that a 56-year-old man was killed by a heart attack when he was only 100 metres away from the emergency unit of the Caritas Hospital in Sham Shui Po yesterday.

According to the media reports, the man was taken to the hospital reception lobby where a uniformed staff refused to offer help, citing he/she didn't know how. When a doctor reporting duty at the hospital helped the man's son call the emergency line, an ambulance was dispatched from Mong Kok three kilometres away. Another ambulance from Cheung Sha Wan finally arrived and took the man to Caritas Hospital's emergency unit after a long-winded detour of hundreds of metres. The man, eventually but not surprisingly, was certified dead.

Even if the media reports were accurate to the best possible extent, a number of key questions remain unanswered:

1. Who was that uniformed staff? Was he/she a medical staff? If yes, how could he/she refuse to help, which can be as simple as fetching the appropriate personnel rather than giving emergency treatment himself/herself?

2. Did the doctor reporting duty at the hospital call his colleagues for help as well? If no, why not?

3. Upon receiving the report, why did the Fire Services Department dispatch an ambulance from Mong Kok rather than Cheung Sha Wan in the first place? If there was no ambulance available from Cheung Sha Wan, why could there be one to arrive at the scene when the Mong Kok ambulance was stuck in the traffic?

Once again, the Caritas Hospital responded today that the parties involved have all followed the hospital's guidelines and procedures in handling this case. This means no one is liable for any fault or misconduct at least in legal and operational terms. Like many other cases, any human life or property lost is nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence.

Pardon me if I sound a bit too assertive when this matter is still under investigation, I can't help venting my anger and frustration upon reading this piece of news.

I can't remember how many times I have heard unfortunate and yet irritating stories of this kind. At this time when judgement built on a strong common sense is indispensable, it seems there are still more than enough technocrats in the administration who know nothing but ploughing through the nitty-gritty trivia and the countless guidelines and regulations to hold them in their positions until their retirement. Apparently there is a strong belief that as long as the guidelines and regulations are adhered to, one can be assured that he/she is legally and operationally clean. Unfortunately this exclusivity to rigid bureaucracy is a regrettable neglect of what civil servants and public service personnel are supposed to do in the first place - serving the needs of people. If the human race can be governed by bureaucracy instead of sensible discretion and judgement, why do we need the complacent civil servants and public service officers to make decisions on our behalf?

Anyone who suggests that the Hong Kong bureaucracy may eventually change some time when the younger generations are promoted to more senior positions may be over-optimistic. The mammoth administration of Hong Kong has already evolved into a blood-sucking vampire who can turn every victim into one of its kind, losing sight of the reality and feeling complacent and hostile towards those who stay outside its crumbling castle of elitism.

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