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Thursday, Mar 23, 2023

Hospital waits spike to 18 hours

Hospital waits spike to 18 hours

Hongkongers seeking treatment at public hospitals' accident and emergency department had to wait up to 18 hours to consult a doctor yesterday morning amid a sharp increase in demand after the New Year holidays.
On the first working day of the new year, at least four hospitals among 18 offering A&E services showed a waiting time of over eight hours, according to the Hospital Authority.

They are Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern in Chai Wan, Kwong Wah in Yau Ma Tei, United Christian in Kwun Tong and North District in Sheung Shui.

But actual waiting times were much longer than eight hours for some people.

At Eastern in the morning, the waiting hall of the A&E department was packed.

A man who accompanied his wife to the hospital, said they arrived on Monday afternoon, but were still waiting after 18 hours.

The man said he wanted to switch to a private clinic and asked the hospital staff for a refund but was rejected.

"I've paid HK$180 already," he said, adding he originally planned to bring his wife to a public outpatient clinic but it was closed as Monday was a public holiday.

Another patient said she brought her 13-year-old daughter to the hospital over shortness of breath and they had to wait 10 hours before she could see a doctor.

A "special announcement for winter surge" was put up at the entrance, telling patients that wards are saturated and patients may need to wait at the A&E for a long time.

The authority said medical wards are 120 percent occupied.

As of 6.45 pm yesterday, the waiting times have been shortened, but it was still over five hours at Eastern.

The other two hospitals with A&E services on the Hong Kong Island - Queen Mary in Pok Fu Lam and Ruttonjee in Wan Chai - also topped the chart with over four and three hours respectively.

Apart from North Lantau and Tuen Mun hospitals with three to four hours, waiting times elsewhere were cut to one hour or two.

Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau visited Queen Elizabeth to inspect frontline operations in wards.

He said the authority has set up temporary beds and arranged for special manpower deployment to step up services.

"Those with milder conditions can seek medical attention at general outpatient clinics or from private doctors, so that public hospitals can concentrate resources on patients with more serious conditions," he said.

But Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff chief Anders Yuen Chi-man said A&E wards suffer from severe manpower shortage and some medics had to cancel their day offs.

He also said frontline medics have not been told about manpower adjustments and that the authority should communicate better with staff. "If everybody knows the plan, we will know how to cooperate with one another and operations will be much smoother."

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