Medicine wards expand role of emergency rooms
Accident and emergency doctors will play a bigger role in providing diagnosis and treatment for patients, says the clinical service co-ordinator of the Hospital Authority's Hong Kong East cluster, Lau Chor-chiu.
Dr Lau said the move would relieve pressure on inpatient wards.
Next Thursday, Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital and Ruttonjee Hospital will open emergency medicine wards to supplement emergency rooms.
Patients who need treatment for one to a few days may stay in the emergency medicine wards instead of the general or specialised wards. Accident and emergency doctors will diagnose and treat the patients, with specialists.
It is expected that the new emergency medicine wards will cut inpatient admission rates and relieve the burden on inpatient wards.
The emergency medicine ward of Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital will provide 26 beds. Patients will be charged HK$100 a day on top of the existing HK$100 fee for each visit to an emergency room.
Patients who need to stay for several hours only for simple treatments will be put into the observation ward without extra charge.
'Strengthening the emergency rooms' role in diagnosing and treating patients will be a major trend in the public hospitals,' Dr Lau said.
'The other 10 accident and emergency departments will also open emergency medicine rooms over the next two years.'
About 20 specialists in accident and emergency medicine graduate each year. Dr Lau believed this would meet the higher demand for emergency services, but recruiting nurses to support the extended services would be a problem.
'We will gradually increase the manpower to meet the heavier workload. I think the supply of doctors is OK, but it is quite difficult to hire nurses as there is an overall shortage in the city,' he said. To further improve accident and emergency services, the Hong Kong East cluster earlier this year also established an incident review panel, chaired by Dr Lau.
Representatives of the major hospitals in the cluster will meet regularly to share clinical experiences and discuss measures to improve services. Personally, Dr Lau has joined many different voluntary medical works to enrich his experience and widen his horizon.
He is one of the voluntary air doctors for the Government Flying Service and has joined different rescue works. He was also sent overseas to help in various tragedies, such as the 2004 tsunami that devastated many Southeast Asian communities.
At the age of 50, Dr Lau has been rewarded for his work by being named one of the Hospital Authority's annual Outstanding Staff Award winners this year.