China’s top health body urged hospitals nationwide to extend service hours and set up more clinics, as the recent increase in respiratory illnesses drew global concerns.
The message delivered at a Nov. 26 news conference held by the National Health Commission (NHC) came as domestic media reports show that long lines have formed at pediatric hospitals, with some parents reporting that they waited up to eight hours to get their children to see a doctor.
Health officials on Nov. 26 acknowledged that hospitals are overcrowded, and to quell public concerns, they urged local clinics to enhance their capacity to accommodate the growing number of patients.
“Efforts should be made to increase the number of relevant clinics and treatment areas, appropriately extend service hours, and strengthen guarantees of drug supplies,” NHC spokesperson Mi Feng told reporters on Nov. 26.
“It is necessary to do a good job in epidemic prevention and control in key crowded places such as schools, child care institutions, and nursing homes, and to reduce the flow of people and visits.”
The health ministry reiterated the previous response to the World Health Organization (WHO), attributing the recent spike in acute respiratory cases to a combination of pathogens, most prominently influenza.
Wang Huaqing, the chief expert at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s immunization program, listed other pathogens behind the rise in cases among the 5-to-14 age group, including the rhinovirus, a typical cause of the common cold, and mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterial infection that usually affects younger children.
Meanwhile, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is being detected among patients older than 60, according to Mr. Wang.
Health officials didn’t provide data during the Nov. 26 news conference. Cases among children are notably prevalent in northern areas such as Beijing and Liaoning Province, where hospitals are alerting the public about prolonged waiting times.