Some elderly Covid-19 patients at Hong Kong’s government-run AsiaWorld-Expo isolation facility have been deprived of showers for more than 20 days amid a staffing shortfall, with a nurse describing residents there as “abandoned” in a “living hell”. Conditions at the ward on Lantau Island are reportedly so dire, that not only have family members vented their frustration at how their loved ones are being treated, but senior medical staff who work there have also publicly taken the government to task over its management of the facility. Lawrence Yip, a 46-year-old Hongkonger whose 83-year-old mother has been at AsiaWorld-Expo for more than two weeks, said in an interview on Friday that the government had been “so slow to wake up to the problem”. “It has been two years since the pandemic began. How could the government not realise it and prepare for the worst?” he said. He noted that his mother, who had difficulty walking, had not showered for more than two weeks and was lonely and afraid, suggesting authorities arrange daily video calls between patients and their family members. A 65-year-old housewife, who only gave her surname as Wong, said she felt heartbroken and frustrated when she found her mother, 93, had developed skin ulcers after a 23-day stay at the facility. The older woman, who only gave her surname as Kung, was sent to AsiaWorld-Expo on February 18 after waiting for five days outside the accident and emergency department of North Lantau Hospital. “I feel so bad sending her through such tough times alone,” Wong said, adding that no carers at the facility brought her mother for a shower due to a manpower shortage, which led to Kung’s skin condition. “Even a healthy person has to take a bath daily, not to mention patients staying in treatment facilities with lots of germs,” she added, calling her mother’s experience a “nightmare”. The 93-year-old was sent back to an elderly care home on Sunday, with pus-filled lesions on her back and buttocks. The isolation facility, located in the exhibition hall of AsiaWorld-Expo near the airport, was launched in January to provide 500 beds for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms. The venue is now run by the Hospital Authority and the Social Welfare Department. It was first used as a mobile cabin hospital from December 2020 to March last year. Dolphin Chan, a 33-year-old nurse who has worked at the facility since pandemic operations started there, said it was in the worst situation. “Many elderly patients said they felt abandoned,” Chan said, describing the venue as a “living hell”. Use mainland help well, plan ahead in pandemic fight, top official tells Hong Kong She noted that medical staff worked 12-hour shifts, and that she usually took care of more than 80 patients daily. Some patients missed meals or showers due to the lack of manpower. “I had no choice but to ‘give up’ on some of the patients due to a shortage of hands,” she admitted, adding that some elderly individuals had even urinated in their beds. Dr Shea Tat Ming, a specialist in geriatric medicine working at AsiaWorld-Expo, accused the government on Friday of “mismatching resources” by using the facility to treat Covid-19 patients in stable condition instead of those with severe cases. Shea noted that some elderly patients were unhappy about being isolated at the facility, and were therefore reluctant to eat or drink, saying what they needed most was daily care rather than medical treatment. “The government has been ‘fighting the war on paper’ since the pandemic began,” he told a radio show. On Wednesday, the Hospital Authority said three seriously ill Covid-19 patients – aged 90, 92 and 98 – who had been staying at AsiaWorld-Expo, died at North Lantau Hospital. The government said a 75-member team comprising 36 doctors and 39 nurses from 14 Guangdong public hospitals would offer support to the facility from Thursday. “The mainland medical support team is very professional, with a strong ability to adapt. They will work together with the Hong Kong medical staff to provide professional service to the patients,” the Hospital Authority said in a statement The authority’s chief manager, Dr Lau-Ka hin, acknowledged on Thursday that there was “a need for us to increase manpower at AsiaWorld-Expo so that we can provide sufficient nursing care to patients”. He admitted that some elderly patients could not shower at the venue without help as the facility was originally designed for younger patients who could care for themselves. The Social Welfare Department said on Thursday that caretakers would help elderly patients at the facility wash their face and mouth every four hours, and help them shower while following protocols to avoid becoming infected themselves. Lawmaker Doreen Kong Yuk-foon on Thursday called for transparency from the government over the arrangements at AsiaWorld-Expo. She noted some residents were anxious as they could not contact family members in the facility. “Hong Kong is a global financial hub. How can our elderly residents be treated in such an unsatisfactory environment?” she said, advising the government to set up portable bathing stations at the facility. “A clear message that there are enough medical staff would comfort family members of patients,” she added. On Thursday, Hong Kong recorded 21,650 Covid-19 cases, pushing the overall tally to 790,822 with 4,847 related deaths.