More private docs wanted for virus hunt

Local | Jane Cheung 8 Apr 2020

Jane Cheung

A solid number of patients who consulted private doctors last month suffered from respiratory symptoms that could be linked to the coronavirus, infectious disease expert Ho Pak-leung noted as he called upon more practitioners to join a voluntary testing scheme for Covid-19.

This came yesterday after the Centre for Health Protection sent letters to private practitioners encouraging them to distribute more containers for collecting deep throat saliva even if patients had the mildest symptoms and no travel history.

Center controller Wong Ka-hing said that since the department of health's enhanced laboratory surveillance scheme was on March 6 extended to private doctors 4,000 specimens sent by them had been tested, and the 2 percent positive for the virus was high.

"The percentage is even higher than those detected at public general out-patient clinics," Wong said.

The Hospital Authority and the department of health conducts 3,000 to 4,000 Covid-19 tests every day, he said, but they receive only several hundred specimens from private doctors daily.

"At this moment we are using the containment method focusing on early detection, isolation and treatment of patients as well as quick contact tracing to stop it from spreading," he noted.

"This tactic is still effective.

"I don't want to speculate why some private doctors join the scheme but some don't.

I only want to stress the test is free and all doctors are welcome to join," said Ho from the University of Hong Kong.

Ho said he was worried that a considerable number of people carrying the virus go undetected, becoming a "time bomb" for infections.

So "we must push the test numbers higher and cover more private clinics."

Ho said since the scheme was extended to private practitioners 78 of samples were positive, or 10 percent of confirmed cases during the period.

So "private doctors account for one fourth or even one third of all local cases."

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