26 October 2016
Dr. Wong Yam-hong says interactions with patients from the mainland made him realize how fortunate it is to be a Hongkonger. Photo: HKEJ
Dr. Wong Yam-hong says interactions with patients from the mainland made him realize how fortunate it is to be a Hongkonger. Photo: HKEJ

HK must safeguard its social and moral values, says doctor

Here’s are some excerpts from an online post written last month by Dr. Wong Yam-hong from doctors’ group Médecins Inspirés (杏林覺醒) as he recalled some encounters with patients:

“‘How can blood transfusion come free of charge?’ one of my female middle-aged anemia patients exclaimed in disbelief,” Wong wrote. 

“‘No one will make sacrifices for nothing’, said the patient, who was desperate to hand me a heavy red packet, believing that it is a necessary ritual for getting good medical attention and treatment,” the doctor wrote.

One has often faced such questions from new immigrant patients, he said.

Wong wrote that he had to make a lot of effort to tell his patient about Hong Kong’s blood collection and supply system, explaining that it is operated by a non-profit making, non-governmental organization that runs voluntary, non-remunerated blood donation program in the city.

“I am thankful that I was born in Hong Kong,” the doctor wrote.

Wong, a cardiologist who has been serving in Tuen Mun Hospital for a decade, said the number of new immigrant patients has been on the rise, giving a ratio up to five out of 10.

And every one out of four new immigrant patients would try to give him a red packet. Wong said he sympathizes with them after learning about their experiences in the mainland.

“They think they will be mistreated if they don’t give red packets to the medical staff. That’s the environment they were struggling in,” he said, adding that Hongkongers are very fortunate as the city has a honest and clean system with a sound anti-graft mechanism in place. 

“In mainland China, almost every patient staying in hospital is asked to take intravenous fluid therapy regardless of what illness they suffer. But in Hong Kong, doctors will recommend it only when the patient actually needs it,” Wong noted.

Mainland hospital bills point to a money-making racket, the Hong Kong doctor says.

“The charging list could be surprisingly in great detail. IV fluid, cotton ball, a syringe … all come with a price tag. Giving patents IV fluid therapy could be a matter of making money,” Wong said.

The doctor said Hong Kong must safeguard against such practices creeping into the city from the mainland.

“We have to safeguard our supreme social and moral values, maintaining a clean and honest society,” he said. “We should strive for success with diligence and wit … and dare to tell the truth.”

Earlier this month, lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan commented in a LegCo meeting that if standard work hours were to be enforced in public hospitals, more patients would be let go and doctors won’t do much work.

“As we all know, doctors at public hospitals work day and night and stay on call in case of emergency. Even during the SARS outbreak, medical staff kept themselves in position,” Wong said, slamming Chueng’s comments.

Wong is a spokesperson for the 20-people group Médecins Inspirés, which evolved from a petition initiative.   

After China’s parliament endorsed a watered-down Hong Kong electoral reform proposal on August 31, 2014, some ‘yellow-ribbon’ doctors launched a petition calling for true democracy.

According to Wong, the petition was intended to be one-off and that they hadn’t thought of founding a long-term organization.

However, things changed as some “esteemed” doctors like Dr. Lo Chung-mau launched a petition that described pro-democracy protestors as “cancer cells”.

This prompted Wong’s group to keep Médecins Inspirés alive.

During the Umbrella Movement, Wong and other members from Médecins Inspirés formed a medical supporting team, providing onsite medical services for free. 

Since the establishment of Médecins Inspirés, they have set up booths on the streets, participated in protests and had many media interactions on various social issues.

Wong says colleagues in the profession have been giving him friendly advice from time to time, such as “be more discreet”, “authorities won’t like to see troublemakers around”, etc.

But the doctor says that one has to stand by one’s beliefs and uphold core social and moral values.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 24.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Writer of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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