A senior citizen is inoculated by a medical worker at a community medical service center in Hefei, Anhui province.(Photo by Yuan Bing/For China Daily)
Medical centers urged to coordinate resources to lessen impact of outbreak
China's top health authority on Thursday stressed ramping up treatment for vulnerable COVID-19 patients, as well as reinforcing preparedness of elderly care facilities and emergency care resources, as part of efforts to lessen the impact of the disease.
The National Health Commission said that tertiary hospitals — large, general hospitals in cities — should devote all efforts to treating elderly and child COVID-19 patients showing serious symptoms, and each hospital should be paired with a specific area and county-level clinics to provide targeted assistance.
Secondary hospitals — those sitting on the middle level of China's three-tier hospital system — should be paired with local elderly care homes. However, no hospitals are allowed to reject serious COVID-19 patients transferred from outside regions assigned to them, the commission said.
"Meanwhile, medical institutions should pay close attention to key facilities such as elderly care homes and key services such as first aid care to ensure the orderly operation of healthcare systems," it said.
"Coordination and allocation of medical resources should be improved, and more efforts should be dedicated to monitoring the epidemic situation, flattening the curve and addressing public complaints," it added.
Local medical capacities are being tested as a wave of COVID-19 infections is hitting cities across China and experts are calling for directing limited resources to the most susceptible groups, including seniors and those with preexisting illnesses.
Zhang Wenhong, head of the infectious disease department at Huashan Hospital affiliated to Fudan University in Shanghai, said during a forum on Wednesday that the key to weathering the first wave is suppressing the scale of local outbreaks to lower than the full capacity of healthcare systems.
Based on the experiences in some foreign countries, Zhang suggested reinstating some nonpharmaceutical measures such as suspending schools, encouraging work from home and limiting gatherings when hospitals are overwhelmed.
It is also vital to stock sufficient drugs and vaccines, accelerate booster immunization campaigns, enhance community health services and implement triage protocols, he added.
Cao Bin, vice-president of China-Japan Friendship Hospital and head of its respiratory and critical care department, said that even though the rates of hospitalization, admission into critical care departments and intubation or deaths have all fallen for Omicron patients compared to those infected with the Delta strain, the much higher transmissibility of Omicron means that spiking infection numbers will likely lead to excess deaths.
He said most COVID-19 patients suffering viral pneumonia are from vulnerable groups, including people age 65 and above and those living with obesity, multiple chronic diseases, tumors or immunocompromised conditions.
He suggested patients deemed at high risk be given antiviral drugs at an early stage and their oxygen levels be measured regularly.