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Wednesday, April 08, 2020, 08:55
Expert: Govt should urge large private clinics to test for virus
By Li Bingcun in Hong Kong
Wednesday, April 08, 2020, 08:55 By Li Bingcun in Hong Kong

A veteran private doctor said that large private-clinic chains operated by major medical groups are what the government should work with when conducting COVID-19 tests, as small, individually run clinics have expressed concerns that the tests would lose money.

After collecting specimens at home, the patients could return the container to private doctors on the second day, or directly hand them in to designated collection locations offered by the government. All the specimens are tested in governmental laboratories for free

Samuel Kwok Po-yin, president of the Association of Private Medical Specialists of Hong Kong, made the comments to China Daily via a phone interview hours after the city’s health authorities appealed to private clinics to have more of their patients go in for coronavirus tests.
He said that some small private clinics, especially those that handle nonrespiratory diseases, lack sufficient knowledge and guidance in this area. Such clinics also worry the service might discourage patients with other diseases to come to them, Kwok added.
He suggested the government designate the city’s major private clinics to offer the service because of their experience in handling such cases. In addition, the move would give needy patients clearer guidance about what clinics they should use.
At the daily epidemic briefing on Tuesday, Wong Ka-hing, controller of the Centre for Health Protection, said that among the more than 4,000 specimens from private clinics, 2 percent of them tested positive, which is a relatively high level among different groups of suspected patients under medical observation.
He added that some newly confirmed coronavirus patients, especially younger ones, showed only mild symptoms. For that reason, he advised private doctors to consider requiring more patients to undergo the virus test, even if they develop only mild symptoms or have no travel history in the past 14 days.
Since March 9, all of the city’s private clinics and hospitals have been allowed to collect specimens from suspected coronavirus patients. Usually they would dispatch containers to needy patients for deep throat saliva collection
After collecting specimens at home, the patients could return the container to private doctors on the second day, or directly hand them in to designated collection locations offered by the government. All the specimens are tested in governmental laboratories for free.
Yet private clinics have so far shown a great deal of reluctance to participate in the plan. At a news briefing in mid-March, health officials revealed that private clinics and hospitals were currently conducting fewer than 100 tests a day combined. The number for public clinics is 300 to 500.
Leading medical specialist Ho Pak-leung, who is also president of the Centre for Infection at the University of Hong Kong, also called for wider participation of private doctors to contain the epidemic.
In a Hong Kong Commercial Broadcasting program on Tuesday, Ho noted that during the past month, private clinics helped to identify 78 confirmed coronavirus patients, accounting for more than 25 percent of the city’s 786 new cases recorded during this period.
So far, the city’s infection tally is 935, including 21 new cases confirmed on Tuesday. Among the new cases, three were linked to a karaoke gathering and four others were connected to the largest infection cluster linked to bars.
There are also 12 patients with a recent travel history, including four students returning from abroad and a foreign domestic helper returning from France.

bingcun@chinadailyhk.com


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