The winter influenza season is raging. From January to February 7th this year, Hong Kong has recorded 227 severe cases of influenza and 123 deaths. Many public hospital emergency wards have been filled to overcapacity. Patients have to wait for a long time to be seen. The Education Bureau (EDB) even announced that elementary schools and kindergartens will go on vacation a little earlier than the Lunar New Year holiday in order to stop the spread of influenza within schools. Also, the DAB is highly concerned about the fact that many doctors in private practice close over the holidays, leaving patients with nowhere else to seek treatment.
1.In order to allow patients to be treated as early as possible in a suitable manner the DAB met with Secretary for Food and Health Prof. Sophia Chan and other groups to ask the FHB and HA to implement our proposals as soon as possible:
2.Improve the services of public clinics during the Lunar New Year period. At least two out-patient clinics in each district should remain open to provide servers as usual and increase the quota of patients treated.
3.Provide evening out-patient service during the Lunar New Year period so as to divert night time patients from A&E service.
3.Immediately dispatch personnel to deal with patients through methods such as utilizing medical personnel on leave and signing retired medical personnel to short term contracts, hiring more medical staff and have them help in dealing with semi-urgent and non-urgent cases in the A&E Departments, public and evening out-patient clinics.
4.Promote public-private partnership in developing healthcare. Purchase more beds from private hospitals and vacate beds in public hospitals to receive more patients in need.
5.Improve the information outreach arrangements for both public and private hospitals. This includes providing lists of private doctors who provide regular services during the Lunar New Year period and related information on the websites of the Food and Health Bureau, the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority’s websites and at the eye-catching places of the A&E Departments of public hospitals, out-patient clinics and evening out-patient clinics. Also the waiting time of A&E should be provided at the eye-catching points of the Food and Health Bureau, the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority’s websites to make it easier for the public to keep up-to-date with the latest service information.
6.Improve the follow-up visits by nurses in each district to recently discharged patients to encourage patients who are stable to be discharged as soon as possible. Proactively doing so will provide follow up services with the health situation of these patients and also free up hospital beds to receive new patients.
During the meeting, Secretary Chan pointed out that 12 holiday general out-patient clinics (GOPCs) will increase their service quota by more than 1,600 in the coming Lunar New Year holidays (February 16 to 19) to cope with the anticipated demand under the current winter surge period. The Accident and Emergency (A&E) Departments of public hospitals will also remain open as usual to serve the public with urgent medical needs during the Lunar New Year holidays.
Finally, we request the FHB and the HA to implement any possible measures as soon as possible, to strengthen the provision of public healthcare services during the Lunar New Year, to ease the worst of the winter influenza season and to allow patients to receive suitable medical care. The related parties should follow up with the general public at a suitable time and protect the health of the people of Hong Kong.
Media Inquiries: DAB Chairperson Starry Lee (7770 0820)