“The average daily attendance was close to 7,000 at the beginning of this week, 10% higher than the average daily attendance last week. The number of inpatients admitted to Medical Wards was over 1,100 in the past few days, adding pressure to the already saturated Medical Wards and resulting in access blocks in some A&E Departments of public hospitals," said Hospital Authority (HA) Chief Manager (Cluster Performance) Dr Ian Cheung last week. He explained that the warmer weather following the cold spell in the week of 8 January, coupled with the influenza season had led to a surge in the attendance in A&E Departments.

Patients await admission for over 12 hours

Since last December, the HA has activated the contingency response plan for winter surge. Latest public hospital service statistics indicated a persistently rising trend in service demand.

“In the past week, hospitals with patients awaiting admission for over 12 hours included Kwong Wah Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Tuen Mun Hospital and United Christian Hospital. The healthcare staff in A&E Departments have to accord priority to treat patients with severe conditions and monitor patients awaiting for admission. This has led to longer waiting time for semi-urgent and non-urgent patients. Some of these semi-urgent and nonurgent patients have to wait for over eight hours in a number of hospitals.”

Surge in Brief

Cheung said that over 1,500 extra beds have already been opened recently to cope with the winter service demand surge. He hoped members of the public could apprehend the overcrowded situation in the wards, and cooperate with healthcare staff in transfer and discharge arrangements.

Patients with mild ailments are advised to consider seeking consultation at GOPC or private doctors

To relieve service demand pressure and reduce long queueing time in A&E Departments, Cheung also appealed to patients with mild ailments to consider seeking consultation at General Outpatient Clinic (GOPC) or private doctors. He said the HA has already added about 18,000 GOPC quotas to cope with the higher service demand during the winter surge.

In addition, Cheung thanked frontline healthcare staff for their patient-centred professionalism in working overtime and deferring vacation leaves.

He also expressed gratitude to various community partners in rendering support to HA, including private hospitals, private doctors, Chinese Medicine practitioners, and various voluntary healthcare organisations. MIMS

Read more:
Public or private? Do Hong Kong patients have a choice?
Return of the influenza peak season: Hospitals remain overburdened, frontline struggles with manpower shortage
More than saving lives: Here’s why the government should consider providing universal HPV vaccination