The situation of seasonal influenza in Hong Kong has seemingly improved as the Accident and Emergency (A&E) attendance dropped over the past week, compared to the previous two weeks.

“Actually, the situation in the past week has stabilised a little bit. The A&E attendance is just over 5,000 and below 6,000. If we look at the past two weeks, the A&E attendance has been over 6,000,” said Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan.

However, when asked if the flu season has reached its peak, she clarified “it is very difficult to say at this stage whether it has reached its peak”. “If we look at the A&E attendance, it has gone down a little bit and has stabilised. But according to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP), we are still in the peak season,” she added.

Has the flu season reached its peak?

According to CHP's Flu Express (week 29), local influenza activity was still at a very high level in the past week, and it is expected to remain at a very high level in the coming weeks. Since the activation of the enhanced surveillance for severe influenza infection on 5 May, 361 severe cases, including 252 deaths, were recorded. Separately, 18 cases of severe paediatric influenza-associated complication resulting in three deaths were recorded in the same period.

Meanwhile, the influenza associated hospital admission rates have improved. In week 29, the admission rates in public hospitals with principal diagnosis of influenza for persons aged 0–4 years, 5–9 years, 10–64 years and 65 years or above were 7.16, 1.75, 0.37 and 5.27 cases (per 10,000 people in the age group) respectively, as compared to 9.80, 2.12, 0.51 and 6.40 cases in the previous week.

Professor Shu-cheong Hui at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s Department of Medicine and Therapeutics thinks the flu season has reached its peak. In particular, he observed a decrease in number of cases at the Prince of Wales Hospital (PWH), from more than 10 influenza cases in a day to recently a single digit (eight on 26 July and four on 27 July). Yet, Hui said it would be difficult to predict how long this peak season lasts, unless the Department of Health (DH)'s statistics show that there is an overall downward trend in a majority of the hospitals.

Nevertheless, bed occupancy of the medical wards for some hospitals are still over 100%. As of 26 July, PWH topped the list for five days in a row with 124% medical inpatient occupancy rate at midnight, followed by Pok Oi Hospital at 120%.

13 patients transferred to St. Teresa’s Hospital as of 30 July

The HA announced on 21 July some collaborative measures to try alleviate the summer influenza season. Such measures include an agreement with St Teresa’s Hospital (STH) to borrow 48 beds to transfer patients with stipulated conditions, so as to vacate the public hospital beds to take care of the patients with more serious clinical condition.

However, the 48 beds are not utilised yet. As of 30 July, only 13 patients were transferred to STH for treatment. “As far as the bed situation of St Teresa Hospital is concerned, HA is looking for suitable patients. After getting their consent, HA will send the patients there. They will continue to monitor the situation,” said Chan.

Hong Kong Adventist Hospital in Tsuen Wan also said the government had approached them. Photo credit: Concordep
Hong Kong Adventist Hospital in Tsuen Wan also said the government had approached them. Photo credit: Concordep

Hong Kong Adventist Hospital in Tsuen Wan also said the government had approached them in its reply to HK01. Both parties are still working out the details of the patient transfer scheme and no further details can be disclosed at this stage.

According to the hospital’s land lease conditions, it is providing 60 low-cost surgical beds, accounting for 20% of the total number of beds. Patients admitted must be a permanent residents of Hong Kong aged 18 or above. Daily price is at HKD100, covering room fee, general care and three meals of the day. Other medical expenses will be calculated based on 50% of a second-class ward. Doctor fees are not included in the package.

Apart from collaboration with private hospitals, Chan also reported the latest updates on recruiting extra manpower to solve the shortage in the medical sector.

“Currently, we have about 350 doctors and 2,200 nurses already working on part-time basis. DH has about 10 people who have voluntarily agreed to help out in the HA after office hours’ time. Also, the Hong Kong Medical Association has given a list of 24 private medical practitioners who have agreed to work part-time for the HA. I think these are some of the manpower measures,” she shared. MIMS

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