Public hospitals were overwhelmed during the latest summer influenza peak season. QEH was one of the most severely hit – with occupancy rates of its medical wards consistently surpassing 100%. Apart from a shortage in manpower, the hospital was also having insufficient hospital beds. Even though there were 16 extra beds added during the period, its Accident & Emergency Department (A&E) still saw 20 – 30 patients waiting for beds on some days.

To avoid experiencing similar situation in the upcoming winter flu season, the hospital chief Albert Chi-yuen Lo recently announced the plan to open an extra medical ward to handle the foreseeable surge in demand. The ward is expected to provide approximately 40 extra beds.

Increasing number of hospital beds and manpower

According to Lo, who also heads the Kowloon Central Cluster, 59 doctors and around 270 newly graduated nurses have been hired for the cluster this year July. While the added manpower would to some extent alleviate the workload during the upcoming winter flu season, Lo admitted the cluster is still in short of around 40 doctors.

During the summer flu season, the Hospital Authority (HA) has also sought help from St Teresa’s Hospital for extra beds. Under the contingency agreement, St Teresa’s Hospital has made 48 beds available for transferring patients from public hospitals. Nonetheless, many of the patients were reluctant to the idea of making a hospital transfer, according to Lo. Yet, despite only 35 patients were transferred to St Teresa’s Hospital as of 30 August, Lo still described the arrangement as ‘largely successful’ – adding that there is room for improvement.

“We hope that during the winter surge, we can further discuss with St Teresa’s ways to improve on what we have achieved,” expressed Lo.

In addition, the Hong Kong Buddhist Hospital’s reconstruction is anticipated to complete by 2019 – in which, an additional 130 beds are expected to cater for extended-care services.

Improving service quality

Besides initiatives to tackle the upcoming winter flu season, QEH has also introduced some measures to improve service quality.

In particular, the hospital will add 1,150 physiotherapy appointment slots. It will also perform 1,170 extra visual field tests for glaucoma patients. The General Outpatient Clinic Public-Private Partnership Programme will cater for approximately 3,170 patients.

On top of that, QEH will add 26 day beds for ambulatory chemotherapy services by the first quarter next year. It will add 1,000 oncology specialist outpatient clinic attendances during the same period.

Dr Tak-chiu Wu, consultant at QEH, said the improved services of the day centre for outpatient parenteral antimicrobial therapy will reduce demand for hospital beds. He expects the hospital to cater to around 3,500 patients who need to take antibiotics starting from 2018. MIMS

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