Hong Kong’s flu patients are suffering, but so are doctors, nurses and public hospital staff
The recent influenza surge has caused grave concern among the public. As we all know, the flu can cost lives. The World Health Organisation estimates that annual flu epidemics result in “about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness [globally] and about 290,000 to 650,000 deaths”.
There is always a peak for seasonal flu, and this winter the problem came to a head, so schools were bound to close before the Lunar New Year holiday. Many have complained that the city has run out of vaccines – some 460,000 doses were used up before the holiday. The government has pledged to import vaccines to meet the demand; for the time being, we are expecting another 44,000 doses.
The government should take active steps before the next peak flu season, in summer, and account for the number of vaccines arranged for that time.
Equally important is more education to encourage children to receive vaccinations to prevent an outbreak. Indeed, the general vaccination rate among children between the ages of six months and 12 years is roughly 18 per cent.
If schools took the initiative to invite children to be vaccinated at school in one go, instead of asking parents to do it at clinics at their own discretion, vaccination rates would be largely improved. That would render our children safe.
Another long-standing problem is the shortage of manpower in medical services. Patients have been flocking to the accident and emergency services at public hospitals – but with limited beds and manpower, the hospitals find it hard to accommodate these patients, resulting in pain for doctors, nurses and all staff.
We care about the patients, but we shouldn’t forget to care about medical staff.
Given the hefty surplus expected in our budget this year, the government should formulate a long-term plan in manpower development for medical services, including a holistic review of the remuneration, working conditions, demand for equipment and incentives related to medical staff at public hospitals, and subsequently devote significant amount of resources to cope with the plan. That would truly go to the root of the problem.
Holden Chow, legislative councillor, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong