Hiring spree for nurses as winter flu season looms

Local | Riley Chan 30 Nov 2017

The Hospital Authority has hired 1,607 full-time nurses since October to deal with the coming winter flu season, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said.

Speaking in the Legislative Council yesterday, Chan said the authority has completed 75 percent of its recruitment drive for 2,130 full-time nurses between 2017 and 2018. She also confirmed that about 1,260 undergraduate nursing students have also been hired on a part-time basis.

The total number of nurses hired increased from 23,000 in 2014-15 to 24,980 in 2016-17. "The progress has been good," Chan said.

However, legislator Joseph Lee Kok-lun expressed concern about whether the authority can fulfill its target before the flu season commences. Chan is hopeful of doing so and announced other flu measures.

One measure - the vaccination subsidy scheme, which targets high-risk groups - was launched last month. So far, more than 400,000 flu shots have been given to people, a 1.9 percentage point increase over the same period last year.

In the winter flu season, public hospitals expect an additional 18,000 patients at general outpatient clinics and are set to provide an extra 700 short-term beds.

The HA will also hire more supporting medical staff and boost incentive pay for extra working hours, Chan said.

She also called on private doctors and Chinese medicine practitioners to remain open on holidays and extend service hours. In addition, she has invited doctors from the Department of Health to work at public hospitals on a part-time basis.

Hong Kong saw an unusually severe summer flu peak that killed 431 people, including three children. The summer season started earlier than usual - in mid-May - and lasted about 16 weeks.

The bed occupancy rate at many public hospitals constantly hovered above 100 percent during the summer.

For example, patients at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin had to wait more than 150 hours for a bed.

While at Legco, Chan brought along medical professionals who gave influenza shots to more than 20 lawmakers.

"I am very happy so many lawmakers received the vaccination today because all healthy individuals should also get vaccinated ahead of the seasonal flu period," she said.


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