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Ridgewater College, Hong Kong medical programs develop partnership

Mike Kubesh, an EMT, from left, Ng Kwok Wai, who uses the English name Roger, of the Hong Kong Society of Professional Medical Care, and Lisa Zvorak, also an EMT, participate Monday in training with a sim dummy at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

Ridgewater College has entered into a formal agreement to provide emergency medical training for the Hong Kong Society of Professional Medical Care.

The college and representatives of the society signed the papers to seal the deal this week, while the Hong Kong officials were visiting the Willmar area. The partnership will bring a national certification system for ambulance personnel in Hong Kong and give Ridgewater's training programs an international reach.

Program director Ng Kwok Wai, who uses the English name Roger, and training director Li Lok Chun, who uses the English name Ray, attended a national conference in Chicago last week and came to Willmar this week. Several Ridgewater officials had visited Hong Kong in July.

Roger and Ray are both nurses with additional medical training. Both served in the Royal Army Medical Corps when Hong Kong was part of Britain.

"Unfortunately, in Hong Kong, we are not using the EMS program like here," Roger said.

A national certification will be important, Ray added, because each ambulance service currently does its own certification. A person who leaves one service is not certified anywhere else.

"We are extremely pleased to have formed this partnership," Ridgewater President Douglas Allen said at the signing ceremony.

Allen said he was impressed by how quickly the partnership came together, taking only about six months.

"When you get the right people together, I guess things can happen quickly," said Betty Strehlow, vice president of academic and student affairs at Ridgewater. "We have all just clicked together.

Emergency Medical Services Coordinator Bev Hartzburg said the partnership was approved at the National Association of EMS Educators conference in Chicago. That allows the society to use the nationally approved curriculum and to be certified in Hong Kong. Strehlow, Hartzburg and Mobile Simulation Training Coordinator Ron Flannigan made the trip to Hong Kong.

Hartzburg said the training for the pilot class of 100 students will begin with first responder classes and move on to EMT. It will be a blended class of some online study and some in person. Hartzburg will deliver some lectures over the Internet. She will go to Hong Kong for final testing and certification.

The first class of EMTs could be testing in May or June, she said. She expects the training to go well -- "They're very dedicated."

Eventually, Hong Kong will have its own certified trainers in place, too, she said.

"The people of Hong Kong are going to get better care," Hartzburg said. "Their paramedic care is basic here, so the standard of care is going to go up for everyone."

During their visit, Roger and Ray have visited Affiliated Community Medical Center and Rice Hospital.

While some things about the two medical systems are similar, Roger said he noticed that the hospital and clinics are quieter and less crowded.

Crowded hospitals have created greater problems there with antibiotic-resistant infections, too, he said.

Electronic records are more prevalent here, too, Roger said. "We are still using paper files," he said. "It is improving; ... it can take a long time."

The training will be done in English. Most people in Hong Kong speak English, as it was part of Great Britain until 1997. Hartzburg said computers will help with pronunciation and definitions of medical terminology.

During their visit, Ray, Roger and Roger's wife, Joanna, and 3-year-old daughter, Victoria, have also visited a farm and enjoyed the different environment.

In the densely populated, heavily urban Hong Kong, "you don't see the sky, or grass or trees," Ray said.

Ray noted that shopping and clothing is cheaper in Hong Kong, and it's easier to get to restaurants, which are found just about everywhere.

The visitors touched horses and other animals for the first time when they visited the farm, and little Victoria sat on a horse.

"This is the most animals I've ever seen in my life," Roger added. "There is no grass in Hong Kong, basically."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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