How’s your summer holiday?
This summer, Hong Kong has been overwhelmed by
a strong outbreak of seasonal influenza and the surge has been continued
Though the situation in the past two
weeks seems to be steadying, our public hospitals have been facing
continuous critical challenges during the peak of this summer surge.
Bed occupancy of most public hospitals
has been reaching their new height;
the medical wards of these hospitals
are having a record high occupancy figure of over 120%.
It is also reported that some of the
patients have to wait up to 8 hours before seeing a doctor, and those
who are to be admitted have to queue up for another 15 hours after
receiving initial treatment in the Accident & Emergency Department.
As a matter of fact, seasonal influenza has
become an endemic in the past years.
However, it is rather disappointed that
the Hospital Authority seems to be remained under prepared, and, as
usual, only able to take a reactive approach to manage the summer surge
until the situation turns into a crisis.
Obviously, this year’s flu outbreaks,
once again, further exposed the ineffectiveness and inadequacy of the
Looking back in March of the last year, an
endemic of flu outbreak flooded the public health system during the
At that time, the Association of Hong
Kong Nursing Staff forward a series of recommendations to the Chief
Executive of Hong Kong requesting the Government to earmark additional
resources and contrive exceptional measures to support the already
overloaded frontline healthcare staff so as to resolve the crisis and
help addressing staffs’ frustrations.
These recommendations includes flexible
allocation of internal resources, speeding up the recruitment of
part-time staff, streamlining of the Special Honorarium Scheme, reducing
unnecessary clinical paper work, suspension of all the hospital
accreditation activities, expanding service capacity of the General
Outpatient Clinics, and triaging non-urgent patients to General
Practitioners in the community.
Nevertheless, there was no evidence
that the Hospital Authority had adopted any of these suggestions.
A year later, i.e. this year, the winter surge
returned as a summer flu outbreak.
What the Hospital Authority has been
doing is, again, a classic knee-jerk response: additional beds without
Such reactive approach not only ending up with more patients are queuing
up in the Accident & Emergency Department and over-congested hospital
wards but also generated unresolved frustration among the already
overloaded frontline healthcare staff.
In an attempt to help resolving such pressing
situation, the Association, once again, made an appeal to the SAR
Government to urge her to implement all possible strategies to rectify
Shortly, it is noted that the Hospital
Authority finally announced a contingency plan to address the summer flu
Interestingly, some of the measures
adopted as contingency are simply mirroring the submission that the
Association made last year.
It is indeed astonished to see that
such risk management approach used by the Hospital Authority to deal
with the endemic seasonal influenza outbreak could be an effective one.
Ostensibly, the Hospital Authority has
never learnt from experience.
As flu outbreak becomes an expected
recurrent annual incident, the Hospital Authority should be able to
instigate proactive and precautionary strategies to stop such crisis
repeatedly challenging our public hospital systems.
In the long-run, to help easing the flu
crisis, the Hospital Authority have to concentrate its human resources
in the provision and delivery of healthcare services instead of
overloading frontline staff with excessive documentation and endless
procedural activities that related to hospital accreditation.
Besides, establishing Nurse-led Clinic
and Clinical Pharmacist in the General Out-patient Clinics can increase
its service capacity and, in turn, help triaging some of the
non-emergency attendees of the Accident and Emergency Departments.
Hopefully, the Hospital Authority could
be able to sustain these measures so that the next flu outbreak would
not become another chaos.
On the other hand, looking from another
perspective, the SAR Government should also be liable for the crisis as
Under the existing so-call “Dual Track
System”, the Government do encourage patients to seek medical
consultations from private sector, however, at the same time, this year,
budgeted HK$57 billion to the Hospital Authority and pledged that HK$200
billion has been earmarked for a ten-year public hospital development
Such contradictory policy creates a
public expectation that the Government aims at continuously expanding
and improving public hospital services.
As a result, ironically, it invites
more patients using public hospitals and, above all, attending Accident
& Emergency Department.
Looking forward, the government should not only review the ineffective
organizational and bureaucratic structure of the Hospital Authority but
also have the determination to reposition the health policy of Hong
Kong, i.e. shifting from a treatment-focused model to a health-centred
model, and to balance the resources allocation between primary,
secondary & tertiary level care.
Keep enjoying your summer.