Prince of Wales Hospital had learned from last year's overcrowding crisis and had activated contingency measures two months ago to deal with the latest winter surge of illnesses, its chief executive said. Fung Hong, who is also chief executive of the Hospital Authority's New Territories East cluster, said that since November the hospital had designated beds for patients with common diseases, which account for about 70 per cent of all admissions. 'We have enhanced allied health and social workers' support to these patients so they can be transferred earlier for rehabilitation at the Sha Tin hospital, or they can be discharged,' Dr Fung said. The average stay in the hospital's medical wards had dropped from 5.5 days last winter to 4.7 days, he said. 'We have been monitoring whether earlier discharges increase readmissions,' Dr Fung said. 'So far the readmission rate remains stable.' He said the hospital had decided to suspend elective surgery a week after Lunar New Year to free up manpower. Last winter, Dr Fung said, public hospitals had been on the 'verge of a crisis' when occupancy rates in some medical wards reached almost 120 per cent. Some frontline doctors also said last winter that resuscitation had been delayed in some cases because staff had difficulty getting machines to patients. 'Overall, we are better prepared this year, and so far the situation is under control,' Dr Fung said.