Hong Kong public hospitals struggle to find enough beds to cope with demand

Lawmakers told Tuen Mun Hospital is overstretched on both medical and paediatric wards as admissions rise in peak flu season

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 7:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 10:53pm

Bed occupancy rates at Tuen Mun Hospital have topped 100 per cent in both medical and paediatric wards as the public health sector struggles to cope during the peak flu season.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man told lawmakers in a written reply on Wednesday that the occupancy rate in the medical ward between November and January was 104 per cent. On the paediatric ward it was 110 per cent, the highest of any public hospital offering inpatient services for children.

Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin had the most overstretched medical ward, with an occupancy rate of 116 per cent.

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The New Territories West group of hospitals, which includes the Tuen Mun institution, was the only group that recorded occupancy rates exceeding capacity in both wards.

The overflow, common in the peak flu season from December to April, means temporary beds sometimes have to be set up in hospital corridors.

Figures from the Hospital Authority highlight the pressure on public hospitals, with 1,023 people admitted to medical wards on Tuesday after visiting emergency services. The number averages around 850 during non-peak periods.

The overall bed occupancy rate in medical wards was 107 per cent.

Ko said the number of nurses employed in public hospitals had increased to 24,851 in December from 24,427 a year earlier. Medical wards had an extra 156 nurses, while there were 36 more in paediatric wards.

Dr Ng Chi-ho, president of the Public Doctors’ Association, said hospitals in New Territories West had been overburdened for years and blamed the authority for its poor use of resources.

Ng, who works in Pok Oi Hospital in Yuen Long, said more beds and manpower must be added to meet demand in the district.

Ko revealed late last year that there were 2.1 beds for every 1,000 people in New Territories West, while the overall figure in the city was 2.9.