Date
20 July 2017
In one case of misuse of emergency hospital facilities, a boy was brought in for a hangnail problem, a doctor says. Photos: HKEJ, Baidu
In one case of misuse of emergency hospital facilities, a boy was brought in for a hangnail problem, a doctor says. Photos: HKEJ, Baidu

Misuse of emergency wards a growing concern at public hospitals

Doctors serving in the emergency wards of the city’s public hospitals are complaining about misuse of the facilities by some members of the public.

Dr. Ray Leung, who works at one of the local public hospitals, noted in a Facebook post that he has once seen a couple bring their three-year-old son to the emergency ward for a minor hangnail problem, Sky Post reported.

When the parents complained that they had to wait for several hours to see him, Leung said he almost wanted to tell them to their face that the long queues at emergency wards were, in fact, created by people like them.

Leung prescribed some nourishing ointment for the child, taking care of the minor case on a day when there were 570 people seeking help at the emergency ward.

Abuse of emergency medical service facilities is a cause for concern, the doctor said.

Another doctor, Jeffery Fung Hin-tat, noted that the number of patients going to the emergency wards has not gone down even after the Hospital Authority (HA) started levying fees in 2003.

There have been cases where patients went to the emergency wards to get certificates of sick leave or for minor work-related injuries, Fung said.

The doctor called on the government to step up promotion of public out-patient services and also encourage the use of private clinics.

Another medical professional, Dr. Pang Kai-mau, pointed out that emergency wards are the ultimate medical safety net and that they shouldn’t be misused.

An HA spokesperson said a triage system is in place to offer emergency medical services to patients with more serious conditions.

According to official data, the average waiting time at emergency wards during the 2014-2015 year was 2.1 hours for non-urgent cases and 1.8 hours for semi-urgent cases.

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