Medics say treatment in single rooms could help prevent further infections The Hospital Authority has come under fire for refusing to use its expensive private rooms to treat Sars patients, despite advice from some medical workers that use of the single-bed rooms could help stop infection of staff and other patients. The authority said yesterday it did not have a policy to use vacant private wards to admit Sars patients. Patients in the authority's private wards are charged between $2,200 and $3,900 a day instead of $100 - the daily charge for patients who have to share rooms. 'Private rooms are not used for Sars treatment. They are very costly to run,' an authority spokeswoman said. A written reply later added that 'using private rooms for isolation facilities may be considered as and when appropriate'. But Leung Ka-lau, president of the Public Doctors' Association, said the authority should make use of the single-bed rooms to isolate patients suspected to have Sars to avoid cross-infection. 'It is better to minimise the number of suspect patients to lower the risk of infection from those who may carry Sars. I do not see why the authority does not consider opening its vacant single rooms to house suspect patients,' Dr Leung said. The president also said the authority should not consider making money from the private rooms as its priority. In a letter to the South China Morning Post, one public medical worker at Queen Mary Hospital said: 'When I was trained as a nurse, infectious patients were always nursed in single-bed rooms so barrier procedures to stop infection of staff and other patients could be put in place. Why is [this] not happening? Hospital staff are still getting Sars from patients and some are dying. Surely hospitals could put Sars patients in single rooms in their private wings, which would protect staff better.' Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tai and Queen Mary Hospital, two major public hospitals which treat Sars patients, declined to disclose the numbers of their private rooms and their occupancy rate yesterday. Legislator Michael Mak Kwok-fung, representing the health-care sector, agreed it would be desirable to use private single wards which had separate facilities such as toilets to isolate patients with the highly contagious disease. He said patients who were recovering from Sars but still needed isolation should be transferred to single rooms. 'However, I believe the Hospital Authority still wants to reserve the private rooms for senior government officials or those who can afford them. So they are unlikely to be used for treating Sars patients who are paying only $100 a day,' he said. The legislator admitted it might be difficult for public hospitals to deploy enough staff for one-to-one care in single rooms as many hospitals were short of staff to handle the Sars patients amid the outbreak.