To meet the high demand for beds in public hospitals grappling with the summer flu crisis, the Food and Health Bureau plans to seek assistance from two private hospitals as part of the contingency measures.
The government has come up with the short-term measure as the fatality rate among adult patients with severe flu conditions has risen to nearly 70 percent.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan told reporters on Wednesday the Hospital Authority (HA) will use government funds to acquire beds from St. Teresa’s Hospital in Kowloon City and Hong Kong Adventist Hospital in Tsuen Wan, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Chan said the two private hospitals are in fact required to provide their beds when asked as specified in their land lease conditions, adding that the HA has contacted St. Teresa’s Hospital to make arrangement.
Currently St. Teresa’s Hospital owns 101 “low-charge beds” that cost HK$120 each per day, while Hong Kong Adventist Hospital owns 60 at HK$100 each.
The additional beds provided by the private hospitals will hopefully ease the workload of their public sector counterparts, which suffer from a shortage of beds and manpower as new flu cases continue to rise.
Data from the Centre for Health Protection shows a total of 289 adults were admitted to intensive care units due to influenza-related infections between May 5 and July 18. Of these patients, 199 or 69 percent have died.
The Hong Kong Medical Association, however, does not think acquiring beds from private hospitals is a smart move, since some of the private hospitals are also facing tight supply of beds themselves.
The association is trying to help ease the crisis by calling on private doctors to work part time at public hospitals as well as to extend practice hours.
Among other measures, Chan said an extra 8,300 places a day at general outpatient clinics in public hospitals will be made available from next week and last until the end of September, while doctors of the Department of Health are invited to provide outpatient services in hospitals during their off hours and leave.
The health minister also said her bureau will strive to increase manpower in the city’s medical system, without confirming if health expenditures will rise from the current level of about 17 percent of the government’s total spending.
She also vowed to achieve the goals of setting up a community health center in each of the city’s 18 districts, building a Chinese medicine hospital in Tseung Kwan O as planned, and dealing with the problem of insufficient columbarium niches.
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