Pressure mounts on crowded public hospitals

Local | Carain Yeung 21 Dec 2016

Public hospitals are grappling with the effect of winter that includes a surge in flu cases. That has seen patient bed occupancy rates exceeding 100 percent in the past two weeks, Hospital Authority officials said.

And the strains come as the Centre for Health Protection confirmed an imported case of the H7N9 strain of bird flu in a 75-year-old man who had been in Guangdong - the first such case this winter.

Hospital Authority executive Ian Cheung refused to be drawn on the suggestion that the squeeze in hospitals is shaping up to be worse than last year, but he did say: "It is definitely not optimistic."

From December 6 to 19, public hospitals recorded an occupancy rate of 101 percent. The highest one-day number of accident and emergency first attendances during the period was 6,635. Li Kai-ming, chairman of the authority's central coordinating committee for A&E services, said the average is around 5,900 cases.

Figures on Monday showed Prince of Wales Hospital had the highest inpatient occupancy rate of 121 percent, followed by United Christian Hospital (117 percent) and Queen Elizabeth Hospital (116 percent). And pressure on services is expected to intensify at the end of the Christmas holiday, meaning next Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Hospital Authority has prepared 500 extra beds, mainly to be allocated to the departments of internal medicine, orthopedics and pediatrics.

Some 23,000 extra general outpatient clinic quotas are also being provided during the winter surge and the Christmas, Lunar New Year and Easter holidays.

Li added that the authority will monitor any congestion of the admission of patients and has recruited more part-time doctors for A&E support.

Extra geriatric support is also being provided in A&E facilities, said New Territories East cluster clinical stream coordinator Man Chi-yin. Some patients could also be referred to community nursing services or rehabilitation hospitals.

On the bird flu case, the Centre for Health Protection said the man with the virus had gone to a wet market and bought dressed chicken when he was in Dongguan, though he had initially denied making any such visit. He is now in a serious condition at North District Hospital.

Fifty-one people known to have had contact with him have been checked and cleared except for a health worker with a mild problem involving the upper respiratory system. All are being given Tamiflu for five days and will be under surveillance for 10 days. This was the 17th imported human case of avian influenza A (H7N9) confirmed in Hong Kong. From 2013 to date, 783 human cases of H7N9 have been reported by mainland authorities.

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