'High pressure led to gaps in hospital admissions' - RTHK
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'High pressure led to gaps in hospital admissions'

2020-04-20 HKT 12:11
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  • Dr Owen Tsang, the medical director for the Hospital Authority's Infectious Disease Centre, acknowledged that a shortage of hospital beds had led to delays in admitting newly-confirmed Covid-19 patients last month. Photo: RTHK.
    Dr Owen Tsang, the medical director for the Hospital Authority's Infectious Disease Centre, acknowledged that a shortage of hospital beds had led to delays in admitting newly-confirmed Covid-19 patients last month. Photo: RTHK.
A Hospital Authority (HA) executive has acknowledged that a flood of coronavirus patients returning to Hong Kong in March had exposed ‘gaps’ in how local authorities dealt with the outbreak, but said they are now reviewing how to improve the admissions process for newly-diagnosed coronavirus patients.

During the peak of the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak here last month, many patients had to wait a day or two to be admitted to hospital even after they were diagnosed.

Dr Owen Tsang, the medical director for the HA's Infectious Disease Centre, said local hospitals had been under tremendous pressure at the time – with isolation beds in tight supply as Covid-19 cases soared amid a rush by overseas residents to return home as the pandemic took hold across the globe.

He said the shortage of beds in negative-pressure wards – which help contain the virus – was exacerbated by the number of patients who had to stay in such facilities for longer periods of time.

However, Tsang gave assurances that the city's hospitals have enough resources – including negative pressure beds – to cope with a ‘medium-sized epidemic’, adding that the pressure on hospitals has eased since mid-March.

But he warned that for a larger outbreak, the authorities may need to consider additional measures like setting up a Wuhan-style field hospital to deal with patients with mild Covid-19 symptoms.

RTHK also spoke to some healthcare workers who said they are holding up amid the pressure of having to deal with the pandemic – even though they have had to make some personal sacrifices.

One nurse surnamed Lui who works at Princess Margaret Hospital, said she has been living in a hotel room for the past two months ago to avoid infecting her family.

She said she was already worried when the outbreak first started in January, because there was still so much not known about the new coronavirus, but the stress increased day by day as the number of newly-confirmed cases increased.

Ultimately, though, she said it was rewarding to watch patients under her care slowly recover and regain their strength before being discharged.

Dr Lui, from the hospital’s Department of Medicine and Geriatrics Department, told RTHK she started volunteering to work at the hospital's isolation ward three weeks ago.

She described her experience so far as "unforgettable and painful", but also said it was a valuable learning experience to work with senior doctors to study treatment options.

Scientists around the world are still trying to come up with an optimum way to treat Covid-19 patients, and Hong Kong is also doing its part.

Three local hospitals have been conducting clinical drug trials for the anti-viral drug Remdesivir.

However, no conclusive results have been announced yet.

Dr Tsang said of 17 patients who took part in the trial at Princess Margaret Hospital, more than half had their fever reduced after two days.

He said their viral load had gone down, but not at a fast enough rate.

No serious side effects were reported, with some patients experiencing mild symptoms like inflamed blood vessels and elevated liver enzymes.

As of Sunday, the number of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong stands at 1,025.