Flu crisis prompts Lam action call

Local | Jane Lam Jul 17, 2017
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday ordered an urgent look into the summer flu problem as public hospitals continue to be flooded with new cases - with Queen Elizabeth Hospital taking as long as 15 hours to admit patients.

Lam went to inspect QEH with Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee in the afternoon after the hospital put up a notice at the accident and emergency department, warning the internal medicine ward was extremely full and patients needed to wait for15 hours for admission.

The summer flu this time is much more serious than in previous years, Lam said, urging the Hospital Authority to come up with plans as soon as possible to ease the situation. She also promised more resources for the authority if it would help to solve the problem.

Cheung Wai-lun, director of the authority's cluster services division, said apart from QEH, public hospitals such as Tuen Mun Hospital and North District Hospital are also packed with patients.

More than 1,000 people swamped public hospitals through the accident and emergency departments for more than 10 straight days. Up to yesterday, 236 cases of serious flu had been reported, and three children had died from influenza and related sickness.

The pandemic preparedness plan and emergency procedures have been adopted by hospitals in view of the severe shortage in medical services and hospital beds, especially in the department of medicine.

"The flu frenzy will start to drop in September or October, but due to the severity this year, it is hard to predict when influenza will die down," Cheung said.

In response to the flu crisis and the concerns over the limited capacity of hospitals, the authority has started to recruit more medical staff, including part- time doctors.

"A few hundred doctors have already been recruited and 1,000-2,000 nurses are expected to join the workforce after graduation to alleviate the overloaded medical system," Cheung said.

He said non-emergency cases such as minor operations or endoscopic procedures have been postponed, and he asked for the public's understanding.

Three doctors from QEH have been reported sick after continuous work. Cheung said the number of medical staff falling ill is still within the normal range and he would not comment on individual cases. He said the staff's absence will not have a big impact on the medical system.

A two-year-old girl died on Friday in QEH after contracting influenza A.

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June 2018