Despite communication woes and confusion over handling patients, hospital chiefs happy with drill The failure of a hospital to set up an outbreak control team, jammed fax machines and health-care workers' excessive use of gloves are among the defects revealed by a drill to test its response to a flu pandemic. Problems encountered in the Hospital Authority's closed-door Operation Flamingo recently are disclosed in a paper the authority board discussed earlier this week. About 200 employees took part in the four-hour exercise on the morning of November 8 at the Tuen Mun Hospital and United Christian Hospital. In the simulated exercise, two policemen were admitted to the two hospitals with fever and respiratory symptoms after coming into contact with someone who died of H5N1 bird flu. The drill also tested communication between the authority's head office and the Centre for Health Protection. The authority has been criticised for barring the media from the closed-door exercise. 'Overall, the drill ran smoothly. The participating hospitals and the Hospital Authority head office demonstrated a clear line of command and efficient flow of communication,' the Hospital Authority's paper on the bird flu drill reported. But the paper said that during the drill, the two hospitals failed to post precautions against airborne and droplet infections, as recommended by the authority's infection control guidelines. One hospital failed to form an outbreak control team when a bird flu case was confirmed in the hospital. Health-care workers were confused over whether people who had close contact with confirmed bird flu patients should also be transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital, which, according to the authority's contingency plan, should take the first 20 patients. Some fax machines were jammed during the drill, which lasted between three and four hours. The authority said all control centres should have at least one separate fax machine to receive documents and another for sending documents. 'The head office's control centre should consider installing additional facsimile machines to cater to the demand for communication between hospitals,' the paper said. The authority said different people contacted the Centre for Health Protection during the drill. 'It was recommended that notification should be made by the infection control teams of hospitals,' the authority's paper said. It also highlighted 'excessive gloving' among medical staff. 'Health-care workers wore gloves during the whole exercise and only changed gloves when handling different patients.' It was recommended that gloves should only be worn when necessary and during direct patient care where contaminated body fluids might be encountered. The authority will hold other drills to test how public hospitals react when they are overwhelmed with hundreds of bird flu patients. A separate drill for the laboratory service for bird flu would also be conducted.