Knowing when to use emergency rooms in Hong Kong key to cutting queues

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 January, 2018, 9:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 January, 2018, 7:31pm

I agree with Chow Ka-wing (“Emergency rooms are for urgent cases”, January 11) that too many people are rushing unnecessarily to public hospital emergency rooms.

These accident and emergency wards are overcrowded because people cannot distinguish between what is a minor ailment and what could be a critical issue, so they tend to hurry to see a doctor who should be focusing on accidents and other serious cases and not dealing with patients with the symptoms of a cold or flu.

Often, colds or flu can be treated by simple remedies at home, such as by taking a nap, or a hot shower to alleviate the symptoms.

I think that our government should publish a booklet to educate citizens as to what would be considered an emergency, and what would not, and when to seek urgent help in public hospitals

Usually, when someone arrives at the public hospital A&E clinic, they will first be assessed by a nurse, who will then classify their rank of seriousness of attention needed by triage, through a level of one to five; one being the most serious, which needs priority attention and five being the least serious. Thus it is normal for someone with minor cold and flu symptoms to have to wait for hours, before they can be treated.

Also, the young, the elderly and the infirm are more prone to getting sick during the winter flu season and so the government could help ease the pressure on hospitals by extending the existing free vaccine programme and giving flu jabs to everyone in these groups at subsidised rates. The Singapore government has done this in recent years, and it has been effective.

Most importantly, we should avoid going out to crowded places such as the cinema, restaurants and attending group exercise classes if we are already sick; or else we risk passing our germs to others.

Increasing the number of doctors and nurses will not help public hospital overcrowding if people are not educated about when to rush to an A&E room.

Eunice Li Dan-yue, Shanghai