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Hospital emergency services seriously affected

2020-02-04 HKT 11:52
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The Hospital Authority on Tuesday urged patients with mild illnesses to visit private clinics instead of public hospitals, saying emergency services have been seriously affected due to absence of a large number of their medical staff.

Some 9,000 healthcare workers at public hospitals walked out on Tuesday, to protest against the government's refusal to close all its borders with the mainland. The health workers say this is needed to stop the mainland's coronavirus outbreak from spreading across the SAR.

A large crowd of people turned up outside the Hospital Authority's headquarters on Tuesday to demonstrate and show support for the striking employees.

The authority's director for cluster services, Deacons Yeung, said more than 100 staff from Accident and Emergency departments didn't go to work on Tuesday morning, so the departments can only handle serious or urgent cases.

He added that around 100 nurses from oncology divisions were absent as well, meaning that some rooms for cancer operations could not be opened and this would lead to some delays to cancer patients' treatment.

He said neo-natal wards have also been affected and urged specially trained nurses to show up for work.

His appeal comes in line with the pledge from Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who also called on medical workers going on strike to have "a change of heart".

The CE said ever since the workers went on their first phase of industrial action on Monday, accident and emergency services, isolation wards, and wards for newborn babies had been affected to various degrees.

She's worried by this, she added, and she's particularly saddened by the impact of that on newborn babies, because they need sufficient nurses to take care of them.

Lam again defended her decision not to completely close the border, saying the government has been acting in response to changes in the situation, adding that people shouldn't be surprised if the government rolls out more measure in the coming few days.

The government closed more border points on Monday but checkpoints at Shenzhen Bay and the airport, as well as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge remain open. Critics say these border crossings are major entry points into the city and should be shut too.