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週日, 19 十一月 2017 11:30

The FTU releases Policy Agenda for Ethnic Minorities

Many Ethnic Minorities have been in Hong Kong for generations and have played important roles in developing Hong Kong. However, EMs are facing language barriers, poverty and difficulties while using public service. Alice MAK, Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Rights of Ethnic Minorities of the Legislative Council, FTU Lawmaker today (9 November 2017) released the FTU “Policy Agenda for Ethnic Minorities”.


The Policy Agenda proposes over 40 policy initiatives from five major areas including multicultural policy, education, employment, medical service and social welfare. The Policy Agenda aims to help EMs integrate into the community smoothly.


Insufficient interpretation services


The problems that EMs facing in healthcare is a typical example. According to the Government, interpretation services are arranged for EM patients in public hospitals and clinics of the Hospital Authority. But Alice MAK noted: “under high pressure in public hospitals, frontline staff’s refusal to arrange interpretation is quite common, it reflects that the Government only pays lip service to the problem and there is no standardized procedure among hospitals”.


A Pakistani chronic disease patient (aged 72) with kidney problem told us his case through his caseworker, Shoaib Hussain. “The patient is a regular visitor to the public hospitals. However, he is not aware that interpretation service is available in the public hospitals. Even though the frontline staff recognize his needs, no interpretation service is arranged for him.”


“Instead, he was asked to bring along who knows Chinese his own friends to the appointments and this note was stated on his appointment slips. As a result, he is not aware of how serious his condition is and what kind of treatment he is going to receive,” Hussain said.


Frontline medical interpreter Yasir Luqman, said there is no standard guidelines among hospitals. Therefore, whether patient is able to receive interpretation services is always depend on the decision of the frontline staff.


“Staff attitude in some hospitals is uncooperative. Some staff will ask us to speed up during the interpretation process, that eventually affects the quality of our services. Some staff may also argue the service length with us, maybe they would like to keep it short so as to save budget”, he added.


“It is the basic rights for EMs to access public medical services. No EM citizens should be treated as second-class citizens because of language barriers, and a standardized procedure is needed in public hospital,” Alice MAK added.


In response to the problem, the FTU Policy Agenda proposed the Government to review the guideline of interpretation services and place medical interpreters in public health institutions, and set up a centralized Department for interpretation services in Hospital Authority.


Lack of Primary healthcare services for EM


Ph.D. student of Nursing Nimisha Vandan, said many ethnic minority women who suffered from Gynecological diseases and mental diseases are not willing to receive medical treatment because of language barriers and cultural differences.


“My research shows that a lack of cultural competence can result in misunderstanding between the medical staff and patients, affecting the quality of medical treatment. That’s why some of them prefer to receive medical treatment when they visit their relatives in their home country, which cause delays in treatments”, she added.  


The common health problem in EM communities is under the carpet because of insufficient primary health care service. “The Government has to consider the needs of EMs when developing primary health care services in the community,” Alice MAK said. She believes the Government should set up EM Community Healthcare Centers, Mobile Polyclinic and recruit EMs as medical support staff.


Apart from Healthcare, the FTU Policy Agenda proposes over 40 policy initiatives from five major areas, perhaps the first comprehensive policy proposal from a political group in Hong Kong. Other policy suggestions include:


  • set up a high-level Committee on Multicultural and Racial Harmony; and appoint a Commissioner for EMs Affairs, so as to co-ordinate cross-bureau and cross-departmental EMs initiatives;
  • revise the “Administrative Guidelines on Promotion of Racial Equality” so as to implement cross-departmental guideline of interpretation services;
  • develop a curriculum along with the “Chinese Language Curriculum Second Language Learning Framework”;
  • bolster support for kindergartens, increase basic subsidy;
  • set up a “EM Employment Division” in Labour Department, so as to improve job referral services for EMs;
  • enhance elderly care services, and to set up community care service teams in EM community;
  • assign EM Residents Liaison Officer in particular public housing estates;
  • formulate “Treat Customers Fairly Charter”, so as to encourage equal services in private sector.

“We will arrange a series of bilateral meetings and urge the Government to follow up on the policy suggestions that laid in our policy agenda,” Alice MAK said. She also urges the Government to remove obstacles that faced by EMs, to help them to unleash their potentials and integrate into the community smoothly.


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