How small Hong Kong hospital’s emergency transfers defied might of Typhoon Mangkhut
Nursing staff recount drama after condition of two patients takes turn for the worse at Buddhist Hospital in Kowloon Tong
As Hong Kong was pounded by the most intense typhoon on record on Sunday, a small public hospital in Kowloon had to make emergency transfers of two patients on roads blocked by toppled trees and in fierce winds.
The 285-bed Buddhist Hospital in Kowloon Tong also faced another issue – how to feed its patients although it had no kitchen and meal deliveries were impossible.
Nursing staff on Friday recounted the drama after the condition of the two patients took a turn for the worse at the community hospital.
Typhoon Mangkhut, which mauled Hong Kong with 175km/h (109mph) winds, had earlier caused a tree to come crashing down and block the main entrance of the hospital.
Nursing officer Agatha Tang Man-shui, who has worked at the hospital for 20 years, said the typhoon signal No 9 had already been issued on Sunday morning when the first patient needed to be transferred to the larger Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the area.
“The patient was in an emergency situation and we had to arrange the transfer,” Tang said.
An ambulance used the hospital’s rear entrance and managed to get the patient safely away as the monster storm battered the city.
Another patient was transferred around 1pm, by which time the storm had been upgraded to the maximum No 10 hurricane signal, which lasted for 10 hours.
“Trees had fallen on both sides [of the road] and it was very windy,” colleague Chan Tsz-ki added, citing the staff who accompanied the patient. “What we worried about most was the safety of our colleagues when they were making their way back.”
The toppled tree – one of 17,000 across the city – also helped put a stop on the delivery of lunch at Buddhist, which relies on Kowloon Hospital in Mong Kok for meals.
Delivery was impossible under the road conditions.
“We had ample supplies of bread, biscuits and milk thanks to advance communication with the management,” Tang said, adding they had to keep a close eye on patients with low blood sugar.
Extra beds were arranged for staff, including for more than 30 nurses, to stay overnight at the hospital because of the weather.
Medical services were maintained across the city under the typhoon, the most powerful since records began in 1946.
The storm left more than 1,000 sections of road blocked by trees or flood debris. Bus and train services were seriously hampered, causing traffic chaos on Monday when the typhoon signals were lowered.
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum called for post-storm work arrangements.
The largest pro-government party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, wrote on Friday to the city’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor calling for an amendment to the law to grant the chief executive power to declare an official day off.
The opposition Civic Party went further, starting work on drafting a private members’ bill to achieve a similar goal. On Thursday, 24 pan-democrats wrote to the Legislative Council president demanding a special meeting to discuss the issue.