Painkillers, paracetamol giveaways to needy

Eunice Lam

Painkillers and paracetamol will be given free to low-income Hongkongers and those who are unable to purchase the fever-reducing medicines due to shortages in their neighborhood, authorities have said.

The Health Bureau assured the public that the supply of drugs containing paracetamol remains stable and people should avoid panic buying or stockpiling a specific brand.

A government spokesman said the Department of Health has appealed to large drug retailers to encourage customers to choose other brands of medicine containing paracetamol if a certain one is out of stock.

”Before the outbreak of Covid, the public health care system usually reserves medicine containing paracetamol to meet the normal daily use for two months,” the spokesman said, adding that the current stock can meet normal usage for about half a year.

He said the government is planning to buy a considerable amount of relevant medicine for stockpiling and will reserve the additional stock for patients in need who have not received public health-care services. Such patients include those from low-income families who may not be able to afford medical expenses.

Apart from painkillers, Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, a cough syrup, has also become a target for stockpiling. The product is sold out in many pharmacies while others inflate prices.

In a pharmacy in Sha Tin, a mini 75-milliliter bottle sells for HK$38 – similar in price to the 300ml bottle that had usually sold for HK$40.

Meanwhile, the Hospital Authority called for people to seek private health-care services as public hospitals expect to see a surge of patients from today, after the long New Year’s weekend.

Matthew Tsui Sik-hon, chairman of the HA Central Coordinating Committee for accident and emergency departments, said the units on average have received over 4,000 patients for the past few days. with some 1,000 transferred to medical wards.

The occupancy rate for inpatient beds exceeded 115 percent in all hospitals while some even reached 130 percent, he said.

Anders Yuen Chi-man, chairman of the Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff, said medical staff are adding extra beds whenever there is space. He added that the situation is better than the fifth Covid wave last year.

He urged people to consult private doctors and general clinics to reserve beds for elderly and chronic disease patients.

Patient rights advocate Tim Pang Hung-cheong from the Society for Community Organization said about 5,000 Covid patients are being treated in public hospitals, adding that a lack of medical staff has led to a slow turnover of inpatient beds.

He suggested authorities encourage private hospitals to provide outpatient clinic services to senior Covid patients to ease the manpower shortage.

The waiting time at A&E departments in some hospitals is expected to be up to 12 hours.

Waiting time yesterday at the United Christian and Prince of Wales hospitals were referenced at over seven hours. About 50 patients were seen at UCH at 3pm yesterday. Some people chose to wait outside the A&E entrance while eating bread.

An elderly woman said she had waited for hours: “I have asthma and my blood oxygen level is low. I came to the hospital at 8am this morning, but I am still waiting for a bed.”

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