To echo China’s new guidelines for COVID-19 prevention and control, local governments and hospitals across the country have been optimizing medical services and the allocation of medical resources to face a likely surge in patients and take better care of the elderly and most vulnerable groups.
On November 11, the country announced 20 new COVID-19 prevention and control measures. On top of that, another 10 new measures were published on December 7 to further optimize China’s COVID-19 control policy.
The measures require enhancing medical resources to prioritize COVID-19 patients.
As the latest Omicron variants spread rapidly with strong transmissibility, some hospitals in major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan, have seen people waiting in lines for hours to enter fever clinics.
To avoid panic and a squeeze on medical resources, local governments and hospitals are upgrading existing temporary hospitals, adding ICU beds and better distributing medical resources.
China built temporary hospitals to receive and treat COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms and cut off the spread of the virus. With the relaxation of COVID-19 control and prevention measures, more temporary hospitals have been upgraded and transformed into sub-designated city-level hospitals based on the size of each city’s population.
Jiao Yahui, general director of the Bureau of Medical Administration under the National Health Commission, said at a press conference on December 9 that the sub-designated hospitals would treat patients rather than just isolating them as the mobile cabin hospitals did. She also said 10 percent of the beds in these hospitals would be transformed into intensive care unit (ICU) beds.
“There are 138,100 ICU beds in China, of which 106,500 are in top-tier medical institutions. On average, there are 10 ICU beds for every 100,000 people,” Jiao said.
Experts have also been providing educational information to the public about the virus and asking asymptomatic patients and patients with mild symptoms not to cause a run on hospitals or jam up the emergency number 120 to keep the medical resources available for possible severe cases.
Many hospitals across the country have already begun changing their approach.
Lu Wei, a urologist with a district hospital in southwest China’s Chongqing, told CGTN that a temporary hospital that the district hospital built to separate and treat COVID-19 patients is expected to be decommissioned soon, along with the national policy changes.
“It was not easy for hundreds of patients and medical staff to be restricted in the temporary hospital built in a suburb away from their families,” said Lu. “It’s especially hard when they stay there for a longer time.”
Lu said rather than keeping the temporary hospital open, the district hospital will instead expand its existing fever-treating department into a designated zone for COVID-19 patients. Doctors from other departments can also be assigned to treat their patients in this zone, and no excessive quarantine is required.
Patients with other illnesses will no longer be required to do a COVID-19 test, only elderly patients will be tested for the virus, and special attention will be paid to them if the results are positive, Lu said.
Beijing has also set up new fever clinics and consulting rooms or expanded existing ones, requiring all hospitals at the second level and higher and qualified primary medical institutions to set up fever clinics.
In many places, including Beijing and east China’s Zhejiang Province, multiple hospitals have opened special online services for COVID-19 treatment so that patients with symptoms can make inquiries online.
Hospitals in Shanghai have opened a special admission channel to receive patients whose nucleic acid test or antigen test results were abnormal.
“We have set up different areas and provided different channels for different groups of patients to ensure all the patients can receive medical care timely. For patients who are seriously ill, they will receive treatment in time whether or not they have negative COVID-19 test results,” Ma Xin, deputy president of the Huashan Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai, told Shanghai Media Group.