Community & Education Environment & Health Hong Kong

Hospital overcrowding continues – but waiting times improve significantly for A&E patients

Overcrowding in public hospitals continued on Thursday though Accident and Emergency patients saw a significant reduction in waiting times at Hong Kong’s busiest hospital.

Despite the improvement, doctors warned that falling temperatures on Thursday are likely to pile more pressure on A&E services at public hospitals.

queen elizabeth hospital waiting times hospital authority over capacity

The waiting time for a bed in a medical inpatient ward on Thursday is 10 hours, significantly lower than the 24 hours on Wednesday. Photo: TVB, HKFP.

At Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Hong Kong’s busiest A&E hospital, a notice on Thursday morning showed that the waiting time for an emergency room bed was expected to be 10 hours, considerably lower than the 24 hour waiting time on Wednesday.

The degree of inpatient ward over-capacity changed from “extremely severe” on Wednesday to “severe” on Thursday. HKFP found that, on Thursday morning, there were significantly fewer people waiting in the emergency room at Queen Elizabeth hospital than on Wednesday, when patients on emergency room beds were placed side-by-side.

queen elizabeth hospital authority over capacity

Scenes on Wednesday (left) and Thursday (right) at the emergency room of Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Photo: Apple Daily, HKFP.

The A&E department appeared to have borrowed more beds to prepare for the surge in the number of emergency cases. The tag “A&E borrowed” was attached to several beds in the hospital.

On Monday, an unnamed doctor who worked at the hospital posted on Facebook that some patients had to wait in wheelchairs because there were not enough emergency room beds to go around.

queen elizabeth hospital authority beds

“A&E borrowed” signs. Photo: HKFP.

The waiting times for consultations were also low – 0.5 hrs for urgent cases and three to four hours for others, as of 1 pm on Thursday.

The Hospital Authority said that it would implement additional contingency measures to increase bed capacity and A&E service capacity. These measures include deferring non-emergency operations, allowing nurses to refill medication for stable patients without seeing a doctor, and allowing flexible hours for doctors to support the A&E.

Over-crowding continues

The Hospital Authority has yet to respond to HKFP’s enquiry as to whether these measures have been implemented, and whether they account for the reduction in waiting times at A&E. Hospital Authority statistics showed that on Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth hospital’s medical inpatient ward was still 21 per cent over-capacity, although this was an improvement from Tuesday’s 30 per cent.

While there was an additional number of beds at the disposal of the A&E department, some were placed outdoors, while some were placed in a corridor.

queen elizabeth hospital authority beds

A sign warns staff not to keep the area clear of beds. Photo: HKFP.

With temperatures expected to drop below double digits on Thursday night, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man warned that the elderly would be susceptible to chronic diseases and injuries, piling more pressure on the A&E departments.

Hospital overcrowding continues - but waiting times improve significantly for A&E patients