Local district- and city-level hospitals' fever clinics are facing sustained pressure amid a surge in the number of patients in Shanghai and a shortage of medical staff, many of whom have themselves been sickened by COVID-19.
To deal with the situation, local health authorities are encouraging patients to use the Internet hospital service for consultation and medicine prescription and opening more fever clinics at neighborhood health centers by allocating more resources to grassroots facilities.
Wednesday was the first day when no nucleic acid test result checks were required for emergency and outpatients services in Shanghai. Hospitals said they have assigned special staff to take charge of patients, including guiding those with high temperature to the fever clinic.
Due to the pandemic, outpatients departments have fewer patients while fever clinics are crowded.
Xinhua Hospital, one of the leading public hospital in Shanghai, has separate fever clinics for adults and for children. The adults' clinic has been receiving some 700 patients and the children's clinic has over 400 patients per day, both figures much higher than a week ago.
Hospital officials said they opened a second fever clinic for adults on Monday afternoon with six more consultation rooms and prepared more beds for COVID19 patients with serious condition. Critical patients are sent to the hospital's intensive care unit.
The waiting time varies at different hospitals, in line with nearby medical resources. Patients have to wait for less than an hour at some hospitals, while at others the wait could be more than two hours.
Xinhua Hospital, with the city's leading pediatric facility, said that pediatric patients may have to wait for up to four hours during peak time.
"The top concern is to ensure the proper operation of fever clinics and treatment of serious patients. All departments have prepared teams to support the fever clinics," said Dr Zou Heng, vice director of Xinhua Hospital's emergency and outpatient department.
"Doctors at both the emergency department and fever clinics consult about patients' conditions and do detailed checks to judge whether the patient should remain for observation. Some patients are directly hospitalized in the emergency department."
Officials from Shanghai Tenth People's Hospital said that its fever clinic is receiving about 1,000 patients each day. Doctors from different departments are supporting the frontline medical staff.
Hospital officials said patients with mild symptoms should have good rest, visit neighborhood health centers and take medicines at home instead of going all the way to queue up outside hospitals. Only people with continuous high fever for days or other severe symptoms should go to the big hospital.
International hospitals have also been crowded with patients.
Officials from Shanghai Jiahui International Hospital said that its emergency and fever clinic receives more than 200 patients every day; 80 percent of them fever victims.
Due to the large number of patients and a shortage of staff because of the infection, patients have to wait for two hours during peak hours.
"Our nurses classify patients depending on each one's condition to ensure safety and medical procedure. The hospitalization rate has also reached 85 percent," said Dr John Hsiang, president of the hospital.
To ease the pressure on the clinic, the hospital has started offering consultation on adults and children with fever. Its Internet hospital has 100-plus online consultations each day. The majority seek advice on fever and 40 percent are expatriate patients.
Shanghai United Family Hospital also said it is also operating in full swing despite the rising number of patients and the wards are only being used for sick pregnant women and those with serious conditions.