As public hospitals in Hong Kong continue to see extreme short supply of beds and their Accident and Emergency (A&E) services are still packed with long queues of patients, the worst may be yet to come, health officials warned.
Hospital Authority (HA) chief executive Dr. Leung Pak-yin said on Monday that the current flu season is likely to persist until the end of May, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
It will be a protracted war, Leung said as he accompanied the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, on trips to Ruttonjee Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital and North District Hospital to assess the flu situation.
Chan said he expects more flu patients to show up at public hospitals for emergency treatment in the coming days following the four-day Lunar new year holiday break which ended on Monday.
The health chief revealed that the HA is set to hold a meeting with experts to discuss measures to cope with the peak flu season.
Among the discussion topics will be sending paramedics to schools for vaccinating students and strengthening research on new vaccines, Leung said.
In other remarks, he said he believes the Education Bureau has no plan to suspend classes after the holidays.
Leung said the HA would add 1,000 to the current quota of 6,600 at public hospitals’ outpatient services over the next four weeks to ease pressure faced by the A&E staff.
According to the HA, a total of 6,870 attendances were recorded at public hospitals on Sunday in relation to the flu outbreak, the second most this year since Jan. 22, when there were 6,971 patient visits.
On Monday, patients visiting the A&E units at public hospitals had to wait for eight hours before 11am and seven to eight hours generally after 11am before they could see doctors
Moreover, medical wards at many public hospitals are more than 100 percent occupied. On Sunday, the medical inpatient bed occupancy rate at United Christian Hospital was the worst at 130 percent, followed by Yan Chai Hospital at 124 percent.
Leung revealed that the HA has reserved a total of HK$900 million for its Special Honorarium Scheme to pay allowances to medical staff who volunteer to work overtime.
Meanwhile, Professor Francis Chan Ka-leung, dean of Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said on Monday that the scene at public hospital wards was appalling as every corner was filled with temporary beds, comparing it to that seen “wet markets” or even “battlefields”.
In a post on the Facebook page of the university’s medical school, Chan paid tribute to the medical workers, who he described as being extremely busy handling emergency cases, distributing medication and taking care of patients’ various needs.
He said with a sigh that public hospitals can never meet all the society’s needs and that it is only a matter of time before doctors become fatigued.
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