Since the outbreak of the fifth wave of the epidemic late last year, Hong Kong is seeing an exponential growth of confirmed COVID-19 cases, putting great pressure on the public healthcare system. To help fight the epidemic, CUHK Medical Centre (CUHKMC) has obtained the approval from the Department of Health to launch a designated isolation ward (step-down ward) to admit COVID-19 patients referred from public hospitals. At the present stage, the step-down ward provides 24 beds for recovering COVID-19 patients, aged between 16 and 75. It is hoped that this initiative can help alleviate the pressure on the public healthcare system, allowing public hospitals to re-allocate resources for critically ill patients.
The designated step-down ward is located in the east wing of the Hospital. With the generous donation of a special funding from The Hong Kong Jockey Club, the necessary enhancement work has been completed in the designated ward, such as installation of negative pressure rooms and isolation facilities, so as to meet the required standards of infection control and clinical care.
The ventilation system of the step-down ward has also been enhanced, so that the airflow in the designated area is separated from the rest of the Hospital. Other measures have also been adopted:
- additional doors are installed at the entrance of the step-down ward to form a buffer zone which helps stabilize the negative air pressure inside the ward;
- unidirectional airflow from corridor to cubicle, then exhausting to the outdoor;
- 12 air changes per hour, non-recirculating;
- HEPA filters are installed near the exhaust limb of circuit;
- additional mobile HEPA units are equipped for augmenting the total air change when necessary.
Dr. Hong FUNG, Chief Executive Officer, CUHKMC, said, ‘The raging fifth wave of the epidemic has overwhelmed the capacity of public hospitals and a large number of confirmed patients are still pending for admission. CUHKMC will make every effort to support the Government’s anti-epidemic work. We are grateful for the coordination from the Government and the Hospital Authority, as well as the generous support tendered by The Hong Kong Jockey Club. Now we have started admitting recovering COVID-19 patients and hopefully this can help relieve the pressure on the public healthcare system.”
CUHKMC will adopt a “One Building, Two Hospitals” approach to facilitate the admission of COVID-19 patients. The equipment, facilities and daily operation of the designated step-down ward will be completely separated from other areas of the Hospital to eliminate the risk of cross-infection and to ensure that other patients and hospital services will not be affected.
All COVID-19 patients referred from public hospitals will be transported to CUHKMC by ambulance and be transferred to the step-down ward through designated route and lift. The step-down ward is well equipped with the necessary medical screening and treatment equipment and devices. The COVID-19 patients will not be able to access other areas of the Hospital or come into contact with other patients during their hospitalization.
When all the COVID-19 patients are discharged and the Hospital is no longer required to admit new COVID-19 patients, the designated step-down ward will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The ventilation system and the negative air pressure will be adjusted back to normal. It will take one to two weeks for the conversion. Once the ward environment is considered safe and fulfils the infection control standards, the ward will resume to become normal ward and admit patients as usual.
CUHKMC will maintain close communication with the Hospital Authority and related authorities to formulate feasible and suitable plans for admitting COVID-19 patients and to ensure that all referral arrangements are carried out in a safe and structured manner.