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Co-treatment essential for elderly

By ZOU SHUO | China Daily | Updated: 2023-01-19 09:25
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Patients receive treatment at the emergency department at Gansu Province Central Hospital in Lanzhou, Gansu province, on Monday. PEI QIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Doctors have been simultaneously treating patients for COVID-19 infections and existing health conditions to minimize the risks of complications, according to the National Health Commission.

Jiao Yahui, head of the NHC's medical administration bureau, said most severe COVID-19 patients also have existing health conditions, with 40.7 percent having one preexisting condition, 24.6 percent having two and 34.8 percent having three or more.

Most involve cardiovascular, endocrine or respiratory issues, she said at a recent news conference.

More than 90 percent of the 59,938 patients who died at hospitals between Dec 8 and Jan 12 had existing health conditions such as cardiovascular or metabolic diseases, late-stage tumors or kidney failure, she said.

The average age of the deceased was 80.3 years, Jiao said. The health of elderly people who have respiratory and cardiovascular diseases often worsens in winter, and complications from COVID-19 have led to a large number of deaths among the elderly, she said.

More attention needs to be paid to older patients and strenuous efforts are required to save their lives, she added.

Guo Yanhong, director of the NHC's health emergency response department, said the newly released 10th edition of its diagnosis and treatment protocol for COVID-19 stresses the importance of treating COVID-19 and preexisting illnesses simultaneously, and helping patients recover through consultation with doctors from different departments.

Although the Omicron variant is less lethal than previous variants, elderly patients who are not vaccinated or who are immune compromised and have preexisting conditions can still develop severe infections, with symptoms such as acute pneumonia and respiratory failure, Guo said.

Early intervention is needed for high-risk patients to prevent their condition from worsening and warning standards should be improved, she said, adding that Western and traditional Chinese medicine can both play a role in treatment.

Hubei authorities have asked medical institutions to minimize the percentage of severe patients by conducting early intervention on those with existing health conditions, according to a notice issued by the Hubei COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control headquarters recently.

Grassroots medical institutions should offer guidance and management for COVID-19 patients who are recuperating at home, uncover risk factors that might worsen their condition, and transfer patients showing warning signs to hospitals early.

All cities in the province are required to organize specialist teams to treat severe cases, made up of doctors from various departments such as respiratory health, intensive care, TCM and cardiovascular health, it said.

County-level hospitals should contact larger hospitals via online consulting platforms and ask for specialist advice to treat severe cases.

Patients that are too sick to be treated at grassroots hospitals must be transferred to more advanced hospitals quickly and efficiently, it added.

A separate notice asked local governments in the province to make home visits to high-risk groups from December to March.

Grassroots officials and medical workers should visit high-risk groups and check on their condition, vaccination status and deliver therapeutic drugs, antigen tests, masks and hand sanitizer, the notice said.

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