Ward changes as Hospitals bed down for long haul

Local | Jane Cheung 5 Mar 2020

Some 400 beds at normal wards in public hospitals will be converted into negative pressure isolation wards for coronavirus patients, the Hospital Authority announced.

One to two wards in each of the seven clusters will be renovated to cater for patients who have recovered but are awaiting the two negative test results that are needed before they are allowed to go home, director for strategy and planning Libby Lee Ha-yun said.

Such wards are designed to contain airborne contaminants.

Lee said that using an epidemiological model that predicts the number of infection cases, the existing 1,200 isolation beds will be sufficient to cater to the 140 cases forecast by the end of this month.

But Lee said the forecast does not factor in possible confirmed cases among Hongkongers airlifted back from Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak.

"I believe the number of confirmed cases among Hubei evacuees will be less than from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, as these people have gone through temperature checks before they come back," she said.

Lee said the epidemiological model found that the transmission rate of the virus has gone down, from one person passing the virus on to 2.3 to 2.68 people in mid-February to one person at the end of the month.

"We can provide 45 to 50 isolation beds every day and the chance of running out of isolation beds is very low.

"However, we want to make more isolation beds to prepare ourselves in case of large outbreaks," Lee said.

She said the conversion will cost around HK$14 million and involve installing two ventilation fans and a high-efficiency particulate air ventilation system in each room.

This comes as Lady MacLehose Holiday Village and Po Leung Kuk Pak Tam Chung Holiday Camp have stopped hosting close contacts of patients, as they will become back-up quarantine sites.

The two camps, located in Sai Kung, provide 60 units - 40 in Lady MacLehose and 20 in Pak Tam Chung - and since their capacity is relatively limited compared to other quarantine centers, the food and health bureau announced that it will suspend usage of the two sites for "more concentrated and effective management of quarantine facilities."

The department of health said that as of yesterday there were currently 500 close contacts of confirmed cases staying in three quarantine centers, including Chai Wan Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village, Jao Tsung-i Academy Heritage Lodge in Mei Foo and Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan, with an occupancy rate of 60 percent.

For those who have to undergo home quarantine for 14 days after returning from the mainland, the department said, some people who do not have permanent residency in the SAR would have to stay in Tso Kung Tam Outdoor Recreation Centre in Tsuen Wan and Sai Kung Outdoor Recreation Centre.

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