Hong Kong health chief confirms 8,300 more places for hospital outpatient clinics to fight flu
Remarks come after Post report that Hospital Authority was seeking arrangement with two private institutions to ease load on public hospitals
An extra 8,300 places will be made available at general outpatient clinics at public hospitals in the next two months in a bid to cope with a surge in summer flu cases.
The increase, which accounts for 1.6 per cent of the existing monthly quota, was announced on Wednesday by Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee.
Her comments came as details were being prepared on how private hospitals will help.
Chan confirmed good progress in talks with St Teresa’s Hospital, which she believed may be the first private hospital to offer beds to help ease the crisis.
The Kowloon City hospital, with 101 “low-charge beds” that cost just HK$120 a day, andthe Hong Kong Adventist Hospital in Tsuen Wan, with 60, are the only two private facilities required to provide such services in their land lease conditions.
Chan said other private hospitals were expressing an interest in helping public facilities, which saw an overall occupancy rate of 108 per cent on Tuesday.
It is understood the Hospital Authority will disclose details on Friday on how public patients will be funded at private facilities.
“I must stress that the measure is only short-term relief,” Chan said. “There is a lot more to be done in the medium and long term to ease the shortage of manpower and cope with medical demands arising from the rapidly ageing population.”
An extra 8,300 places would be offered at public general outpatient clinics from next week until the end of September, with details still in the pipeline, a hospital source said.
Letters have been sent to all doctors from the Department of Health asking them to work part-time in the clinics outside their working hours, but Chan said it was difficult to say just how many would do so.
The Medical Association, the largest doctors’ group, has also urged private doctors and retirees to take up part-time jobs at public hospitals during the crisis.
Looking forward, Chan said there would be greater stress on preventive measures and community health care in an attempt to reduce the demand of elderly and chronic diseases patients.
Measures being considered included setting up at least one community health centre in all 18 districts, anti-smoking measures and greater partnership with primary care doctors in treating chronic patients.
Meanwhile, in response to some private doctors reporting difficulties in ordering Tamiflu, an antiviral drug for treating influenza, Chan said the department would follow up with pharmaceutical firms.
As about 90 per cent of the antiviral drugs at the department were Tamiflu, it would reallocate some of it reserve, including 250,000 pills and 15,600 doses of oral suspension medication, to the private market, she said.
Drugmaker Roche said supplies in the private sector were limited and it had requested more Tamiflu from its European headquarters. Batches of the drug should arrive soon, it said.