The Hong Kong government is having difficulty tackling the flu crisis this summer as many public hospitals have been suffering from a shortage of doctors while new cases continue to increase, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Accompanied by Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan, Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Sunday inspected Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where the emergency rooms and wards were already packed with flu patients.
Three doctors of the hospital were said to have fallen sick because of heavy workload.
Lam told media after inspection that the summer flu this year is much more serious than in previous years, and that she has urged the Hospital Authority to come up with plans as soon as possible to ease the situation.
She also promised the government will provide more resources to tackle the crisis, although she admitted that the shortage of doctors remains a problem.
Lam did not answer questions as to whether the government will seek to recruit doctors from overseas or how soon the manpower shortage can be solved.
Calling the flu outbreak this year unusual, Dr. Cheung Wai-lun, the authority’s acting chief executive, said more than 1,000 people swamped public hospitals through the accident and emergency departments every day for more than 10 straight days, compared to only two or three days usually seen before.
The authority has initiated contingency measures, including issuing special allowances to encourage medical staff to work overtime or cancel leave, Cheung said, adding that operations that are considered not urgent are also postponed.
He vowed to add more manpower to public hospitals, noting that about 100 new doctors and 1,000-2,000 new nurses are expected to join the workforce to alleviate the overloaded medical system.
The Frontline Doctors’ Union said the crisis exposes the fact that the government has long lacked plans to improve the public medical system.
The current situation is mainly due to the government’s continuing cuts in medical resources, which have resulted in chronic problems in the system such as the inability to cope with a surge in the number of patients, the union said.
It said the increase in the budget of the Hospital Authority was at a five-year lowin the last fiscal year that ended in March, making it hard to believe that the government really means what it says about fully meeting the demand for medical resources.
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