In response to the surge in service demand amid the summer influenza peak season, the spokesperson for the Hospital Authority (HA) announced on 21 July some collaborative measures with other departments and organisations.

The measures included an agreement reached with St Teresa’s Hospital (STH) to receive patients from public hospitals, and an addition of a total of 8,300 general outpatient clinic (GOPC) places.

How much can these 48 beds help?

"There will be 48 beds available for the HA to transfer patients with stipulated conditions, which helps vacate the public hospital beds to take care of the patients with more serious clinical condition," announced Dr Wai-lun Cheung, HA Director (Cluster Services).

The arrangement was made based on the agreement with STH in accordance with the Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic to provide support to HA. According to the Plan, HA would collaborate with the Department of Health (DH) to “provide situation updates to private sector and start discussion with private hospitals on patients transfer/diversion”.

"The hospital transfer will be arranged subject to the patients' agreement. The patient will pay HKD120 for maintenance fee per day. The expenses on medications and examinations will be paid by the HA," elaborated Cheung.

The agreement will be effective from 26 July and last until 30 September. Cheung estimated each patient will be subsidised HKD1500 to HKD4500 by the government. He further explained that the HA had already reserved HKD20 million for the plan.

HA has reached an agreement with STH to transfer patients with stipulated conditions. Photo credit: HK01
HA has reached an agreement with STH to transfer patients with stipulated conditions. Photo credit: HK01

When asked if such initiative is justifiable for its costs and effectiveness, Professor Sophia Chan, Secretary for Food and Health, emphasised the cost is comparable to public hospital beds. “There are reports pointing out more public ward outbreaks due to an increasingly crowded environment. Therefore, I don’t think it’s appropriate to add more temporary beds inside the wards,” she explained. “In the long term, we have to revisit the strategies on our infrastructure and manpower. The key is to reduce hospital admission and readmission by strengthening our primary and community care services," added Chan.

A total of 8,300 GOPC places to be added

Apart from the collaboration with STH, the HA will add a total of 8,300 GOPC places to day clinics, evening clinics and holiday clinics—to alleviate pressure on accident and emergency (A&E) services, and for the convenience of patients with mild ailments.

Cheung specifically thanked frontline clinical staff for their professional patient-centred care, overtime work, leave cancellation and deferred training, etc.—to make possible the increase in GOPC service capacity.

"We would also like to thank the Hong Kong Medical Association for their appeal to private doctors to extend service hours and enrol in public hospitals’ part time services. The HA has sent letters to invite doctors from the Department of Health to work in GOPC or A&E departments in their off-duty time for the coming three months. The HA will adopt flexible employment terms to employ more doctors to provide services in public hospitals, so as to alleviate the work pressure of frontline staff," expressed Cheung.

In view of the high turnover rate of ward supporting staff, the HA expressed they would take into account related work experience for additional pay points when hiring patient care assistants (in-patient service). MIMS

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