Have Hong Kong people become healthier?

December 15, 2021 10:40
Photo: Reuters

One profession cursed by the pandemic is ironically doctor, specifically family doctor.

Why? Because family doctors often deal with flu and there have been, surprisingly, much fewer cases during the pandemic.

The reason is simple. Hong Kong people, unlike most other countries, are wearing masks every day, everywhere and because of that, the number of people getting flu is down drastically.

So in a way, Hong Kong people are healthier, thanks to the habit of wearing mask. It is also why people would probably continue to wear this little protection angel even after the pandemic.

This argument is also backed up by sales figures of flu medicine at some pharmacy stores, which reportedly fell by 40 per cent.

But do not worry about the 7,000 private practice family doctors, many of them are said to have shifted their focus to annual health check, which saw increasing demand from people who sought doctor advice before their vaccination, or immigration.

Not just the private doctors, but also the emergency wards, have seen a drop in attendance amid the pandemic.

According to the Faculty of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong (HKUMed), emergency department visits at 18 public acute hospitals between January 1 and August 31 last year fell more than 27 per cent from the same period in 2019.

The university's clinical assistant professor Abraham Wai explained that the decline could be due to the public's fear of contracting Covid at hospitals. The government and media reports that emphasize pandemic concerns might also have discouraged patients from seeking timely and optimal management of their chronic diseases and other health conditions, he said.

Which is perhaps why the mortality rate in Hong Kong during the same period actually went up from 2 percent to 2.9 percent. “The increase in likelihood of death was evident in both men and women, those aged more than 45 years, across all risk categories and social classes,” the HKUMed research team found out. There were also significant increases in mortality among patients with epilepsy, lower respiratory tract infection (pneumonia), airway disease, diabetes, mental disorder, chronic kidney disease, etc.

In a recent gathering with my high school classmates (about 10 percent of them are doctors), they also joked that skin doctors are not doing well either.

This may have something to do with the border closure for nearly two years amid the pandemic. They said skin doctors saw much fewer sexually transmitted infections among their patients. Such infections are believed to be usually contracted across the border.

Would their business be rejuvenated after the border reopening? I wonder.

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EJ Insight writer