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Sunday, Jul 14, 2024

Critically ill patient 'not priority' during Covid crush, coroner told

Critically ill patient 'not priority' during Covid crush, coroner told

A 62-year-old chronically ill woman was not a priority to be sent to a Covid isolation camp before she died at home three days after she became a close contact and contracted the infection in December 2020, the Centre for Health Protection's principal doctor, Albert Au Ka-wing, told a coroner yesterday.
Au, who was a regular host of health authorities' daily press conference on Covid development, said authorities were short-handed during the city's fourth wave - with more than 100 infections a day and frequent operations to evacuate residents from Covid-hit buildings - when Lui Shuk-hang died at home at Mei Lam Estate in Tai Wai on December 12, 2020.

Lui was listed a close contact after her youngest daughter living with her was diagnosed with Covid and sent to an isolation center on December 9.

The next day, Lui told her daughter that she has not heard from health authorities, and that she started to feel unwell. Since then, the daughter had lost contact with Lui.

She eventually asked other relatives to check on her mother on December 12, when no one answered the door and fireman was called to break into the flat, only to find Lui's body on her bed.

An autopsy report concluded the cause of death to be Covid infection.

Testifying before coroner Monica Chow Wai-choo and a five-member jury yesterday, Au said that under measures at the time when the Centre for Health Protection received a report, a nurse would call the patient to check if there were any close contacts.

"If the nurse identified any close contact, she would call them one by one to ask for their personal particulars, contact history with the patient, whether they have chronic disease, or showing Covid symptoms," he said.

"If the close contact already showed Covid symptoms during the nurse's epidemiological investigation, he or she would be classified as a suspected case and arranged for hospital admission."

If not, the nurse would leave them contact information for the communicable disease branch and duty doctors, he added.

Although Lui was a chronic disease patient, Au said she was not marked for priority handling, and he believed the nurse concluded her condition to be stable and that she could take care of herself at home.

The inquest continues today.

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