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HA appeals for public understanding amid surge in demand
The following is issued on behalf of the Hospital Authority:

     The Hospital Authority (HA)'s contingency response plan for the winter surge has been activated since December, and the latest public hospital service statistics indicate a persistently rising trend in service demand. The HA today (January 18) appealed to members of the public for their understanding on the longer wait at Accident and Emergency (A&E) Departments and the crowdedness in wards, and to co-operate with the hospitals for transfer arrangements.
     The HA Chief Manager (Cluster Performance), Dr Ian Cheung, said that the warmer weather following the cold spell last week, coupled with the influenza season, had led to a surge in attendance in A&E Departments. "The average daily attendance was close to 7,000 at the beginning of this week, 10 per cent higher than the average daily attendance last week. The number of in-patients admitted to Medical Wards was over 1,100 in the past few days, adding pressure to the already saturated Medical Wards and resulting in access blocks in some A&E Departments of public hospitals," he said.
     "In the past week, hospitals with patients awaiting admission for over 12 hours included Kwong Wah Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Tuen Mun Hospital and United Christian Hospital. The healthcare staff in A&E Departments have to accord priority to treat patients with severe conditions and monitor patients waiting for admission. This has led to longer waiting times for semi-urgent and non-urgent patients. Some of these semi-urgent and non-urgent patients have to wait for over eight hours in a number of hospitals."
     Dr Cheung said that more than 1,500 extra beds have already been opened in the past few days to cope with the winter service demand surge. He expressed the hope that members of the public could understand the overcrowded situation in the wards and co-operate with healthcare staff in transfer and discharge arrangements.
     To relieve service demand pressure and reduce long queuing times in A&E Departments, Dr Cheung also appealed to patients with mild ailments to consider seeking consultation at General Outpatient Clinics (GOPCs) or private doctors. The HA has already increased the GOPC quota by about 18,000 to cope with the higher service demand during the winter surge.

     Lastly, Dr Cheung thanked front-line healthcare staff for their patient-centred professionalism in working overtime and deferring vacation leave. He also expressed gratitude to community partners in rendering support to the HA, including private hospitals, private doctors, Chinese medicine practitioners, and various voluntary healthcare organisations. In addition, he advised the public to observe personal hygiene and wash hands frequently to reduce the risks of infection, while surgical masks should be worn for respiratory symptoms to prevent spread of the disease.
     The release of daily key service statistics (Appendix I) continued today, and the "Surge in Brief" (Appendix II) illustrating the four-week trend of key service statistics has been uploaded to the HA designated webpage on the winter surge (www.ha.org.hk/goto/wintersurge/en).
Ends/Thursday, January 18, 2018
Issued at HKT 11:04
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