Community facilities in Hong Kong will be used to treat Covid-19 patients in stable condition as early as this month in a bid to ease the burden at overflowing public hospitals as the city battles its third wave of pandemic infections.
A holiday camp-turned-quarantine centre has been identified as the first facility to take in patients as the city’s tally of infections reached 1,713 on Friday.
Thus far, all patients confirmed with the virus have been treated in public hospitals, where there are 1,200 first-tier isolation beds and 500 second-tier beds.
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But pressure has been mounting amid a continuing local spread of the virus, with clusters of cases reported from restaurants, a hospital ward and at least one elderly care home.
There are more than 370 Covid-19 patients receiving care at 14 public hospitals.
A Hospital Authority source said that a community isolation facility could possibly be put into use this month for stable patients, to free up hospital beds.
“Based on the current situation, it is likely we will need to activate this facility shortly,” the source said.
The first facility to be used for that purpose, Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village in Chai Wan, is currently one of four quarantine centres being used for close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases and people arriving from high-risk areas.
The source said a number of factors would be taken into consideration before deciding when exactly to begin using the facility, which is near Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital.
“If there is a difficulty in allocating [hospital] beds, we will then activate it,” the source said.
Information from the Centre for Health Protection showed that as of Friday morning, 279 of the 379 units at the Chai Wan facility were being used by 400 people.
The source said if hospital isolation beds began filling up too quickly, it was possible that part of the site would be used for stable patients, even while those under quarantine remained in other areas.
The authority aims to transfer about 100 patients to Lei Yue Mun after it has been equipped as an isolation facility, and could accommodate at most some 300 people.
Patients with a low viral load, who are free from symptoms and can care for themselves would be seen as fit to be sent to the facility before full recovery, according to the source. Children, pregnant women or those on multiple medications would not be among those sent.
About six to seven doctors and 23 nurses would be recruited to work there initially, with a plan to expand the number of nurses to more than 50 later on.
Negative pressure systems such as those used in hospitals would not be installed in the site’s en suite units, the source said, as natural ventilation is believed sufficient to dilute the level of virus emitted by patients at that stage of recovery.
Another source said technology would be used to help reduce the contact between patients and health care workers at the site.
Each patient is to be given a tablet computer and medical equipment. That equipment, including a thermometer, an oximeter that measures oxygen saturation in the blood, and a blood pressure monitor, are connected to the tablet via Bluetooth.
Readings for each patient would automatically be shown on the tablet and a system accessible by health care staff.