Hiking A&E fees won’t help reduce the crowds at public hospitals

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 12:15am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 8:53pm

I agree with your correspondents who argued that the proposed fee hike at accident and emergency (A&E) departments in public hospitals will not be effective in reducing the crowds.

The overcrowding seen at our A&E units in public hospitals is mainly because of misuse of the service.

When the elderly fall ill, they will first rush to the A&E unit at a public hospital, as they cannot tell whether their symptoms warrant serious attention by the doctors or not.

Similarly, parents also tend to bring their children to these

A& E units when they fall sick, especially during the weekends, when the clinics of private doctors are closed.

In fact, a lot of times, the colds or flus are just minor and can be treated by simple remedies at home, such as by taking a nap or a hot shower to alleviate the symptoms.

Thus, I think that our government should publish a booklet to educate citizens on what is considered an emergency, and what is not; and when to seek help in the public hospitals.

Usually, when one arrives at a public hospital A&E, they will first be assessed by a nurse, who will then classify the patient according to seriousness of attention needed by triage, on a level of one to five; one being the most serious and needing priority attention. Thus it is not unusual for someone with minor cold and flu symptoms to have to wait for hours before they can be treated, thus adding to the crowding.

In my view, if we do not educate citizens on the proper usage of A& E units in public hospitals, even if we increase the number of doctors and nurses, the facilities will still be overcrowded.

Fee hikes are unlikely to have any effect as most of the patients currently visiting these units are the elderly and people on low incomes who already enjoy some government subsidies.

Thus, unless we change their misperceptions about the usage of A& E units in public hospitals, the issue will remain.

Eunice Li Dan-yue, Causeway Bay