Nurses in Hong Kong’s overcrowded public hospitals are planning to protest on Sunday, saying they are stretched to breaking point by the peak flu season. Chairman of Hong Kong’s biggest nurses union, the Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff, Joseph Lee Kok-long said nurses had to work extra shifts and skip meals to care for the influx of flu patients. The city has a severe shortage of nurses and hospital staff are stretched to the limit, Lee said on a radio programme on Thursday morning, adding the group will stage a protest at government headquarters in Admiralty on Sunday. One child and seven adults die in five days in deadly start to flu season “I feel like a stuck record because every year you hear me talking about staff shortages, especially during the flu seasons, but we have really reached a breaking point and we do not see the government doing anything to tackle the situation,” he said. Lee said it was disappointing the administration had not fully utilised the HK$500 million (US$64 million) extra government funding from last year to cope with the flu outbreak. “Nurses are not seeing any results from the government funding, they’re still overloaded with administrative work while taking care of the influx of patients. Each member of staff is helping more than 10 patients,” Lee said. Patients waiting up to 8 hours at public hospitals as flu cases surge The association also blamed the Hospital Authority for adding extra beds when there was not enough manpower. The outcry comes as the city grapples with the deadly winter flu season. Some 44 people have died since Hong Kong entered the peak flu season , 36 of whom were older than 65. A total of 107 serious flu cases have been identified. According to the Hospital Authority, bed occupancy rate at all medical wards of public hospitals reached 111 per cent on Wednesday, meaning temporary beds had to be laid along corridors or in between fixed ones. Tuen Mun Hospital had the highest rate of 122 per cent, followed by Queen Elizabeth Hospital at 119 per cent. Meanwhile, public emergency rooms saw 6,088 patients yesterday. Hospital Authority Nursing Chief Manager Lawrence Poon Yan-wing said on the same programme the situation was not ideal. He said the authority had been recruiting part-time staff while offering more incentives for those who were working extra hours. Hong Kong kindergarten closed till Monday after flu outbreak “It’s not as easy as it seems and we really are trying our best to increase the nurse-to-patient ratio. I have been visiting hospitals and I understand the situation. I see the overcrowding and overwhelming amount of work,” Poon said. He added the authority would hire more ward clerks in the coming year to help alleviate the nurses’ workload.