Emergency physician on the charter flight for detained citizens in Wuhan

Dr Axel Siu, Hong Kong College of Emergency Medicine 

I always have a dream to extend our scope of emergency medicine beyond our ER. In March 2020, COVID 19 was still greatly impacting Wuhan, forcing it to blockade. Many Hong Kong citizens were detained there for a few months already.

The Hong Kong SAR ultimately decided to arrange a charter flight to bring them back home. Though the duration of the flight was not long, emergency physicians and nurses were recruited to provide medical escorts as some of the detained people may have not received any medical support in Wuhan.

I was excited to have this opportunity to support the mission but on the other hand, the notification time was very short before departure and we needed to prepare the emergency drug and equipment lists based on the limited information we had, especially as there were a few pregnant ladies of different gestation to take the flight. We assessed the potential risk of taking an infected person on the flight which may result in danger to both the other citizens and all the other working partners on the same flight. Finally, we formulated a draft plan on how to segregate them on the flight.

On the day of departure, we arrived early at the Hong Kong International Airport and attended the final briefing.

Upon arrival, without wasting any time, we needed to promptly assess the setting in the waiting hall and determine the plan to safely accommodate the coming citizens.

The atmosphere became when the first citizen arrived in the waiting hall and we started all the pre-departure health screening by asking about their background medical history and especially the obstetric history for those pregnant ladies.

After the last passenger left the cabin, it was now our turn to pack up our stuff and prepare to leave. There was still a lot of immigration and quarantine procedures to finish after that we could go for a refreshing bath before going home. When I stepped into my home, it was already 2am on the next day, feeling of hunger and exhaustion started to alert me how much we had done in a day. But once we thought of all the happy faces of the detained people when the plane landed, it will drive away all these feelings and I could proudly tell myself, “I am an emergency physician”.

The medical escort team comprised of two emergency physicians, two emergency nurses and one obstetrician

The detained Hong Kong citizens were matching in for the charter flight.

We were performing the pre-departure health screening before they could get on the flight.

We were ready to bring them home.