Following is the response by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) to a petition staged by the Hong Kong and Kowloon Lifeguards' Union today (May 28) to express its concerns on the management of swimming pools and the manpower of lifeguards:
"The LCSD attaches great importance to the management of swimming pools and the standard of lifesaving services in order to ensure swimmers' safety. The department has all along maintained close communication with staff for further improvement of services.
Regarding the outsourcing arrangements for two sports centres with swimming pools, namely Island East Sports Centre and Tai Kok Tsui Sports Centre, the LCSD undertook in July last year to study the feasibility of taking back their management. The department has reviewed the issue and decided in principle that the management of the two sports centres should be taken back subject to the availability of resources.
However, as the previous outsourced contracts of the two sports centres with swimming pools had expired on April 30, 2010, and the LCSD has not yet been able to deploy the necessary resources within a short period of time to take back the management of the two sports centres, the department had to invite tender for awarding new contracts to manage the two sports centres so that they can continue to provide services to the public. The relevant tendering exercise commenced in late January 2010 and the new contracts took effect on May 1. To enable the department to take back the management of the two sports centres as soon as it is in a position to do so, the department has built in a clause in the new contracts to enable early termination of the contracts by giving sufficient prior notice to the contractor. The department has strictly followed the relevant tendering criteria and procedures when awarding the contracts.
In addition, various measures have been put in place to ensure that the contractor adheres to the highest standard in deploying lifeguards and ensuring safety. For example, the contractor is required to provide adequate lifeguard manpower to handle unexpected and other emergency situations. The department will continue to closely monitor the contractor's performance to ensure its service is up to the department's required standard.
On the union's concerns about the manpower of lifeguards, the department always puts swimmers' safety as the first priority when considering the manpower of lifeguards.
The LCSD provides lifesaving services when public swimming pools and beaches are open for public use. Additional lifeguards will be provided in the peak swimming season (June to August). In 2009, in addition to some 800 regular lifeguards employed by the LCSD, the department employed 850 seasonal lifeguards to provide services at public swimming pools and bathing beaches during the swimming season (April to October). After a recent review, the department has decided to provide about 60 more seasonal lifeguards to serve in the swimming season this year (representing an 8% increase over the number of seasonal lifeguards employed in 2009).
The department has made reference to practices of overseas countries in determining the number of lifeguards for manning individual pool facilities within a swimming pool complex. However, there are no recognised international standards on the number of lifeguards provided for each swimming pool due to differences in the design, facilities and usage of swimming pools in different countries/cities. As the topography and area of beaches in different countries/cities also vary, there is no uniform standard for the level of provision of lifeguards for beaches.
The department will keep the manpower provision and deployment of lifeguards under review annually taking into account operational and practical needs, and will strengthen the manpower if necessary.
To maintain the level of professional skills of the department's lifeguards, both seasonal lifeguards and regular lifeguards have similar entry requirements and will be provided with regular training to keep them abreast of life-saving knowledge and skills. Moreover, all lifeguards are required to take part in regular drills to familiarise themselves with rescue operations.
The department has been maintaining communication with the unions and the staff on the management of swimming pools and lifesaving services. We will continue to strengthen communication with them so that we can work together to provide quality service to the public."
Ends/Friday, May 28, 2010