Makeshift expo isolation facility offers 500 beds from tomorrow

Top News | Wallis Wang 31 Jul 2020

AsiaWorld-Expo will start receiving Covid-19 patients as early as tomorrow, providing 500 beds, says the Hospital Authority.

The makeshift hospital, which will initially receive 100 stable condition patients aged 18 to 60, will relieve the pressure on public hospitals, which are facing a situation two or three times worse than in March, authority director Chung Kin-lai said at a press conference yesterday.

The expo's Hall 1, used for large-scale concerts, has been cleared and handed over to the authority for equipment setup. "We expect to set up the facility within 48 to 72 hours so we can start treatment," Chung said. "But this is a challenge for us."

The authority denied the facility is being built with mainland assistance, contrary to statements made by Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung on Monday. The deputy hospital chief executive of Tin Shui Wai Hospital, Larry Lee Lap-yip said he "never heard about that."

Chung said the hall will have medical facilities so patients could undergo X-rays and blood tests, as well as receive medicine from a pharmacy.

Doctors and nurses will be on duty round the clock. Fourteen doctors have been deployed to the facility, with nine on duty every day, while 45 nurses and 19 health-care assistants will also be deployed at the initial stage.

Lee pointed out that there are doctors standing by if more beds are added, saying there is no need for support from mainland health-care workers.

Patients will be sent to the North Lantau Hospital if their situation deteriorates, while they can be discharged if two deep-throat saliva samples come back negative, or after antibody testing. They are allowed to move around in the facility and can rest in two common areas designated by the authority. But Lee suggested the patients dine alone in their spaces.

The facility will have 31 toilets and five mobile bathrooms, which will be disinfected every four hours.

Vincent Cheng Chi-chung, an infection control officer at the Hong Kong West Cluster, dismissed concerns about cross-infection caused by sharing washrooms as all patients are diagnosed with the same disease and medical staff will not share washrooms with them.

Although air inside the room could not be changed 12 times per hour as hospitals do, he said it would still be safe in the facility because the virus would be diluted in the spacious hall, which has a total floor space of 10,880 square meters and a 19m-high ceiling.

Chung said around a third of the patients in the third wave are over 60 years old and he hoped the new facility could free up beds in hospitals for the elderly and those in serious condition.

Hall 5 - previously used as a testing center for overseas arrivals - will now be used as a temporary quarantine center for elderly care home residents.

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