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Christian Service News

Issue 37 (Oct 2002)

Topic : Opinion Feedback

A Three-Tier Safety Net for the A & E Service

We believe a Three-Tier Safety Net should be provided for the needy should the Hong Kong Government decides to charge for A& E Service. It is our opinion that the maximum fee for the Accident and Emergency Service shall not exceed $77 with a stipulation of granting a half-fee waiver to the elderly people. Moreover, the major criteria in setting the fee level shall base on the affordability of the people rather than to cover its cost .

According to our recent survey on the fee charging issue canvassing opinions from 649 elderly people aged 60 or above and 94 parents, whose children are users of services for special needs children, 52.2% of the respondents objects while 45.9% agree. Among the old people, 54.4% of them disagree yet 43.6% are in favor. Nonetheless, it is noted that the older the age of the respondents, the higher the percentage of objection. On the contrary, 62% of the parents interviewed agree, and only 37% of them disagree.

The primary reason for those who agree to enforce a fee on such service is based on the assumption that the action will help minimize abuses from users. Other reasons include the benefits will go to those who truly need it as a result of the compulsory fee and the fundamental purpose behind the service will be attained.

For those who object, their main concern is for the people, who cannot afford to pay, will be deprived of such service when they may be in urgent need of it. Besides, they also believe the tax revenue has already paid for the A&E service.

If the government does opt for the fee requirement proposal on A&E Service, according to our survey, the median of the amount suggested by the parents is $77.5; while that among the old people is lower, at the level of $40. For all 743 respondents, the average of the maximum amount proposed is $51.78, and the median is $44. According to the above findings, our concern is that if the government should set the fee level at around $100, 93.5% of the elderly people and 89.8% of the parents would not be able to afford it.

Hence, our recommendation would be for the government to consider setting up a Three-Tier Safety Net for the needy. The first tier covers those who are on social security and are from single-parent families. The second tier provides a safety net for elderly people aged 60 or above. As that, this proviso should not be a demeaning gesture but an act to honor the elders who had contributed to the society for the greater part of their lives. In other words, it is a kind of "social filial piety" rather than a "charity" for them. The third tier protects those in need yet covered by the first two tiers. To avoid any abuse of the service, the government is recommended to conduct random checks for cases abusing the resources; and if and when a fraud is found, a stern penalty can then be imposed on the felon.

In conclusion, it is our recommendation for the government to provide a Three-Tier Safety Net for the needy. In addition, we suggest three criteria be considered before the fee is determined, namely 'accessibility', 'affordability', and 'active safety net'.