Reporter’s Notebook: Wuhan Doctors’ Plan to Get a Grip On Patient Tsunami
Almost two months into a coronavirus outbreak which has spread across the world, the city of Wuhan has plans to sort patients into four groups and treat them accordingly in a bid to better coordinate their care and limit the virus' spread.
Officials in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak that may have sickened as many as 40,000 people, unveiled the plan at noon on Sunday.
Retrofitted hotels are being enlisted under the scheme to be used as temporary isolation facilities for less sick patients. It is hoped this will prevent them from self-isolating at home where they are likely to spread the disease to family members.
By Sunday evening, Caixin reporters on the ground had visited three hospitals, including the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital, and saw signs that new measures to hasten diagnostics and centralize quarantining appeared to be easing pressure on emergency departments.
Under the new plan, four types of coronavirus patient groups will be isolated and treated separately, authorities said. They are: confirmed cases, suspected cases, patients who present with fever (one of the most common coronavirus symptoms, but a common symptom of many ailments) and those who have been in close contact with others with coronavirus but who do not yet have symptoms.
The new policy triages patients with severe cases of the disease to ensure they are admitted to designated coronavirus specialist hospitals first. If there is no room for less sick patients in designated hospitals they should be sent to designated hotels where they can be kept quarantined to prevent the disease from spreading.
Patients with a fever who cannot be cleared of having the coronavirus should be referred to centralized isolation and observation, and isolated from other patients to prevent cross-infection.
The policy also delineates four types of personnel working with the four patient groups, instructing them not to move between patient groups to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
On Sunday, reporters visited Wuhan Red Cross Hospital near the Huanan Seafood Market where the outbreak is believed to have begun, or at least initially spread. Roadblocks were set up at the clinic entrance. Patients’ family members were prevented from entering, and patients were not free to leave.
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But it was a markedly different scene from the day before, when more than 200 suspected patients crowded into the outpatient hall. On a previous visit to this hospital, Caixin had seen family members of suspected patients wearing disposable masks and coming and going to deliver meals, in part because of a shortage of nurses and other staff.
A member of the hospital staff told Caixin that only diagnosed patients and severe suspected cases were now being admitted. Moderate and mild suspected cases were being sent to government-requisitioned hotels equipped with medical staff for isolation and treatment. Caixin was told the hotel accommodation and food were provided for free.
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