We'll be ready next time, health official says, as the contingency plan is revealed The government in Guangdong has earmarked 1.5 billion yuan (HK$1.4 billion) to prepare for the possible return of Sars, according to a senior mainland health official. It has also drafted a contingency plan that will see most medical experts responding to emergency calls in 30 minutes. Wang Zhiqiong, deputy director-general of the Guangdong Department of Health, said: 'The 1.5 billion yuan will be the sum given out by Guangdong's government alone. There are also resources to be put in by individual cities. The total sum will be enormous.' Dr Wang said the department had prepared both a contingency plan and a three-level alert system, depending on the scale of any Sars outbreak. 'We have been staying on high alert at all times, even after our last Sars case reported in July. We have learned a lesson from the outbreak. At that time we did not understand the disease and many health-care workers got infected. If it returns, we will be well-prepared,' she said. Dr Wang said the department was highly concerned about the Sars case reported in Singapore this week. A meeting yesterday concluded that health surveillance at borders and ports would be maintained for two more years. The outbreak, which began in November, infected 1,512 people in the province and killed 58. Under the contingency plan, Guangdong Health Department will seek advice from the government's Experts Steering Group when a suspected new case emerges. The mainland's leading Sars expert, Zhong Nanshan, is chairman of the group. The department has also ordered all hospitals in the province to assign three in-house medical experts for clinical diagnosis of the disease. On a provincial level, 40 experts from different specialties including infectious diseases, respiratory medicine, intensive care and radiology will be on duty on a daily rotation basis. Four or five experts will go to hospitals where patients are suspected to have Sars. 'If the three hospital doctors agree that there is a suspected Sars case, the expert group will then visit the hospital and make a joint diagnosis and provide expert advice. They will also support hospitals on the county and village level,' Dr Wang said. 'In most cases, the group of experts can respond to the emergency call in 30 minutes. Our policy is to have the Sars patients stay where they are because the patients may pass the virus to others if they have to be transported.' Guangdong's 1.5 billion yuan will centre on disease surveillance and improving hospital facilities. This includes 500 million yuan to rebuild the Guangdong Centre of Disease Control and Prevention and 50 million yuan for the centre to buy new medical equipment. A further 200 million yuan will be used to build a new hospital block as a reserve facility.