Plans to introduce life-saving defibrillators to shopping centres and public buildings have been delayed while property companies and the Fire Services Department determine whether security guards can legally use the equipment.
Legal and medical experts are trying to determine whether public access defibrillators - used to restart or stabilise heart rhythm in heart attack victims - are defined as medical or first-aid equipment.
Lay people can use first-aid equipment, but under Hong Kong law only qualified people can use medical equipment.
The Fire Services Department, which announced details of its plan last month to train security guards and building management staff to use the life-saving equipment, is in talks with the Department of Health and Department of Justice.
Defibrillators are used predominantly by ambulance and fire services staff in emergencies, but smaller, more basic, versions known as public access defibrillators are used in other countries by non-medical staff in first-aid emergencies.
The Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies, whose members manage 90 per cent of private buildings and are also subcontracted to manage many public housing estates, is discussing the introduction of defibrillators in shopping centres, large office complexes and public buildings.
The legal issue was raised last month and since then the association has checked with medical and legal experts on whether it would be legal to install the defibrillators for use by management staff.
Johnnie Chan Chi-kau, chairman of the management association's education and training committee, said staff of several management agencies had been trained to use the equipment.
He said initial reaction from the legal and medical sectors was that the simpler units were classified as first-aid equipment and could be used by non-medical staff, but that Fire Services and the Department of Health were seeking further advice from government lawyers before finally ratifying the installation scheme. Dr Chan said a decision was likely by early April.
Modern defibrillators are user-friendly, usually with recorded, step-by-step instructions on how to use them and automated heart-beat detection features.