Due to the influenza peak season, the overall occupancy rate of medical wards in public hospitals has been consistently surpassing 100% since Christmas Eve, according to statistics released by the Hospital Authority (HA).

Acting Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Chui Tak-yi ascribed the service demand surge to the increased number of patients after the long holiday and considering that more public doctors are on leave, when speaking to the media on 28 December. He further asserted that a series of measures have already been put in place by the HA to alleviate the overburdened hospitals and workload of frontline colleagues.

Ageing population one of the factors behind winter surge, claims HA Chairman

According to data on 27 December, Pok Oi Hospital in Yuen Long witnessed the most crowded medical wards with an occupancy rate of 135%, followed by Tseung Kwan O Hospital, with 126%.

On the same day, HA Chairman, Professor John Leong – accompanied by Deputising Director (Cluster Services), Dr Ian Cheung – paid a visit to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments and medical wards of Kwong Wah Hospital and Tseung Kwan O Hospital to understand the latest service situation faced by frontline staff, as well as the manpower arrangements following the extended Christmas holidays.

The Hospital Authority (HA) Chairman, Professor John Leong (centre), visiting the wards at Tseung Kwan O Hospital on 27 December. Photo credit: GovHK
The Hospital Authority (HA) Chairman, Professor John Leong (centre), visiting the wards at Tseung Kwan O Hospital on 27 December. Photo credit: GovHK

According to Leong, the number of inpatient admissions had recorded a more significant surge than the number of A&E first attendances – hence, claiming that the ageing population has contributed to the surge, considering elderly patients might more often experience complicated conditions that require hospital admissions.

Last year during the winter surge, Dr Li Kai-ming, who was in charge of A&E services, had also mentioned that the ageing population was one of the factors behind the increasing number of visits in A&E.

Borrowing beds from private hospitals

Chui asserted that the authority is adding extra beds to cope with the demand, to prepare for the winter surge.

“We have already added 400 temporary beds. Depending on the situation, we will have in total 700 short-term beds ready to meet anticipated demand,” highlighted Chui.

Chui also added that the authority is in discussion with St Teresa’s Hospital and Hong Kong Adventist Hospital (HKAH) in Tsuen Wan to borrow beds.

Earlier this year in July, HA has reached an agreement with St Teresa’s Hospital (STH) to borrow 48 beds to transfer patients with stipulated conditions, in order to vacate the public hospital beds to cater to the patients with more serious clinical condition. However, as of 30 July, only 13 patients were transferred to STH for treatment.

Chui said both hospitals are ready to receive public hospital patients commencing January 2018, with STH providing 48 beds and HKAH providing 30 beds. MIMS

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