The volume of patients availing themselves of accident and emergency (A&E) services in the city’s 17 public hospitals is often at its peak during public holidays and influenza seasons.
Patients with a more stable condition inevitably have to wait longer, sometimes as long as five to six hours, under the triage system.
In order to allow people to better estimate the waiting time for A&E services, starting from the end of December, the Hospital Authority will announce in real time the approximate waiting time for consultations through electronic screens at A&E departments, the HA website and the mobile application HA Touch.
Since A&E services are designated to save critical patients who are dying or in life-threatening condition, the triage system has to be in place to determine the priority of individual patients, ensuring that every patient is given timely attention and treatment in accordance to their needs.
Patients are divided into five categories according to their medical condition: critical, emergency, urgent, semi-urgent and non-urgent.
Those in the last two groups may have to wait over five to six hours for the consultation.
Meanwhile, the availability of A&E services fluctuates. A large-scale traffic accident might bring over a dozen of the injured which would further extend the waiting hours for those who are in a less serious condition.
By providing information on the estimated waiting hours, the authority hopes that those who are less in need of emergency attention might consider seeking medical treatment in public or private clinics instead.
The new system would show the approximate longest waiting hours, timed from registration till the start of consultation, for semi-urgent and non-urgent patients at all A&E departments.
The data will be revised, if necessary, every 15 minutes.
If A&E patients in the queue find the waiting time too long and would like to seek private medical services instead, they could use their mobile phones to scan the QR codes for Hong Kong Primary Care Directory or the Hong Kong Doctors Homepage so that they could get the corresponding services they need.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 14.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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