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HK pandemic hospital expands services

By ATLAS SHAO in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-04 09:45
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Photo taken on Nov 13, 2023, shows the interior of the Central Government-Aided Emergency Hospital in Lok Ma Chau, Hong Kong. [Photo/Xinhua]

A central government-aided hospital built for Hong Kong during the COVID-19 pandemic has been tasked with new missions as it started offering a range of much-needed medical services to the city's residents.

The Central Government-Aided Emergency Hospital, located in Lok Ma Chau, is now offering the city's first public overnight sleep analysis service, as well as ultrasound scans, contrast computerized tomography services and magnetic resonance imaging scans as part of a pilot program.

A 68-year-old woman surnamed Lai was among the beneficiaries of the program. Despite her yearslong spinal problems and a recent fall, the soonest Lai could get an MRI appointment in the public system was in 2026. As someone who struggles to walk, she found the wait intolerable.

"I felt relaxed after arriving at the hospital, as the environment is comfortable and relieving," Lai said. "Checkups are also quick and stress-free as in other public hospitals."

Despite living on Hong Kong Island, she found the hospital easily accessible thanks to the shuttle bus services offered by the city's Hospital Authority, which connect the emergency hospital with the Sheung Shui, Tuen Mun and Yuen Long areas.

The hospital was commissioned for construction by the central government in March last year to meet the healthcare demand in Hong Kong during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was handed over to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on Dec 30.

After the pandemic ended and life returned to normal this year, the Ambulatory Diagnostic Radiology Service Pilot Programme was implemented in April, with an aim to relieve the strain on the city's public hospitals and address the long waits patients faced to receive diagnostic radiology services.

Initially limited to select patients, the pilot program was expanded three months later to all public hospital patients.

By mid-November, the hospital had conducted CT or MRI scans on 6,416 patients. The pilot program cut the public hospital waiting period for a CT scan from 120 weeks to 36, while the waiting period for an MRI scan was reduced from 120 weeks to 49.

Paul Lee Sing-fun, chairman of the coordinating committee for radiology at the Hospital Authority, said the initial goal of the pilot program was to provide such services to nonhospitalized patients between the ages of 12 and 80 who were in a stable condition and enjoyed normal mobility.

Lee said as part of the program, patients can choose to get their scans at the government-aided hospital, where services would be faster.

In light of the positive response from patients, the hospital extended radiological diagnosis services in October to include the new contrast CT scans and ultrasound scans.

In addition, a diagnostic endoscopy department, a microbiology laboratory and sleep analysis services were put into operation.

Starting next month, the contrast CT service is expected to be extended to all public hospital patients in Hong Kong, with three computerized scanners in full operation.

Two ultrasound machines in the hospital will start providing general abdominal and pelvic ultrasound imaging services to all public hospital patients on Dec 12, with an aim to serve 72 patients per week in the initial phase.

Since October, patients have been able to use overnight sleep therapy rooms to undergo sleep analysis. These rooms are equipped with adjustable heating and air conditioning, bed rails that prevent patients from falling out of bed and equipment for monitoring vital signs such as electrocardiography and respiratory oxygen levels.

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