China's Wuhan will strengthen medical treatment for severely ill and elderly COVID-19 patients, the latest signal from the city hard hit by the novel coronavirus but now in a steady recovery.
Jiao Yahui, an official with the National Health Commission, said Saturday that patients at the Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals, built from scratch to help the then-overloaded local hospitals treat severely ill COVID-19 patients, will be transferred to four large hospitals in Wuhan by April 15.
"We hope to secure the patients the most effective treatment by placing them at the four hospitals with high-quality medical resources in the city," Jiao said, adding that the treatment of the severe and critical cases remained difficult.
The official also said elderly patients, who made up the vast majority of the severe and critical cases, have been placed in "better hospitals," while demanding residential communities care for those who could not be attended to by their families after being discharged from hospital.
"Those aged above 65 and usually with underlying diseases must be treated in hospitals with better resources," said Jiao. "It is more difficult to treat the elderly and it requires greater input of medical resources. However, all patients regardless of wealth and age are important to us."
The announcement was made after Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is the capital, saw its number of COVID-19 patients in severe and critical condition, most of whom are located in Wuhan, drop to 93 on Saturday from a peak of more than 10,000 in February.
The overall cure rate of COVID-19 in Wuhan has been improved to 94 percent, with that of patients aged above 80 nearing 70 percent. The cure rate of patients in severe condition exceeded 89 percent, according to the latest official figures.
"This is a hard-won achievement," Jiao said, pointing to the fact that the total number of COVID-19 patients aged above 80 exceeded 3,000 in Wuhan, and around 40 percent of them had been in severe condition.
It was announced Saturday that seven of the eight centenarian COVID-19 patients in Wuhan had been discharged from hospitals after recovery, with the oldest aged 108.
Meanwhile, medical experts continued to stress the difficulty in the treatment of the severely ill and elderly COVID-19 patients.
"Over 90 percent of the old-age patients have underlying diseases and some of those in severe condition had been hospitalized for 50 to 60 days," said Jiao.
Du Bin, ICU director of Peking Union Medical College Hospital and member of a national medical team sent to Wuhan, said elderly COVID-19 patients generally have cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and lung diseases, as well as compromised organ functions, thus requiring organ support therapies.
Yuan Yufeng, vice president of Wuhan Leishenshan Hospital, said most of the severe patients in Wuhan hospitals have turned negative in nucleic acid testing, which means the anti-virus treatment is no longer the focus.
"Their main problems include severe organ damage caused by the disease, thus requiring advanced life support, and pre-existing health problems such as cerebral infarction, coronary disease and diabetes, which keep them in hospitals. Many of them are elderly patients and their treatment remains difficult," he said.
Vice Premier Sun Chunlan previously demanded targeted treatment and better nursing for severe COVID-19 patients and the "utmost efforts" to improve their cure rate. She also ordered medical teams from other parts of China to retain high-level intensive care groups in Hubei.
"Every life deserves respect," she said.