Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam calls for action to tackle unusually long summer flu crisis

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends an interview with Reuters in Hong Kong, China, on July 14, 2017.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends an interview with Reuters in Hong Kong, China, on July 14, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - Public hospitals in Hong Kong are struggling with a flu crisis and the city's chief executive has called on the Hospital Authority to come up with urgent measures.

Mrs Carrie Lam made the request on Sunday (July 16) after visiting Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The flu crisis has so far killed 157 people, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

During her visit, Mrs Lam was told that patients whose conditions are not life threatening have to wait at least six hours to see a doctor.

The unusually long flu outbreak this summer is putting hospitals under pressure, SCMP reported.

The Hospital Authority said it hopes that the 100 newly graduated doctors later this month would help to ease the manpower crunch. Up to 2,000 nurses will also be injected into the system by September.

Meanwhile, hospitals will hire more part-time doctors and ask nurses who are on leave to return to work, according to SCMP.

"I have already asked the authority to work out measures very soon to ease the manpower problem," SCMP reported, quoting Mrs Lam.

"If it is something to do with resources, the government can promise to give its full support. But if even though there is money, and there is still a problem getting enough doctors, that will be a more complicated and difficult issue," she said.

Mrs Lam added that she has asked the authority to think of other ways to ease the manpower squeeze.

The Hospital Authority said that the flu outbreak this year, which has hit many elderly people, is "unusual".

Said acting chief executive, Dr Cheung Wai Lun, as quoted by SCMP: "In the past two weeks, some 1,000 patients needed to be admitted to general medical wards of public hospitals every day.

"Usually, such a situation would last about two or three days and we would be able to cope with it. But this year, it lasted for more than 10 days."

Experts said there was no sign that the current flu virus in Hong Kong is mutating.

Dr Paul Chan, a microbiologist at Chinese University, told SCMP that he believed the outbreak was partly because the flu vaccine given in November last year had started to expire.