Hong Kong health officials to review whether ‘buying beds’ at private hospitals to ease flu crisis should be standard practice

Health secretary Sophia Chan says government will study results of first round of current exercise under which patients from overwhelmed public wards have been sent to private hospitals

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 2:44pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 11:39pm

Hong Kong’s health care chief says the government will review whether it should become standard practice to “buy beds” from private hospitals to ease overcrowding at public facilities during peak flu seasons.

Speaking on an RTHK radio programme on Saturday, Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said 28 public hospital patients had already been transferred to the privately-run St Teresa’s under the government’s first bed-sharing scheme.

The arrangement lets patients pay the same price charged by public hospitals – HK$120 per day – to stay at private facilities.

The scheme was announced last month after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor paid a surprise visit to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei and asked top officials to come up with measures to ease overcrowding.

A summer flu crisis in Hong Kong has seen 484 severe cases recorded since May, including 332 deaths.

Hong Kong’s summer flu season ‘could last for three more weeks’

“Many private hospitals have expressed interest [in participating in the bed-sharing scheme],” Chan said on Saturday. “But whether it is necessary to normalise the practice, we will decide after reviewing the results of the first round.”

Most transferred patients would be discharged within a week and cooperation with St Teresa’s had been smooth so far, Chan said.

St Teresa’s has temporarily leased 48 of its cheaper beds to the government until the end of September. Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital is capable of offering half of its 60 cheaper beds in future to accommodate patients from public hospitals.

Private hospital offers beds to help overcrowding in Hong Kong’s public wards – but may not take effect till after flu crisis

The latest flu surge has overwhelmed wards at public hospitals, pushing occupancy rates as high as 120 per cent and leaving many facilities at breaking point.