Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 8

Foot-in-mouth disease

Having just stepped into the fray after the resignation of Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), Department of Health Director-General Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) highlights an all-too-common lack of common sense in the medical field by speaking out of both sides of his mouth ("Health chief declines to punish doctor" (May 19, page 1).

According to the article,"health-care workers battling SARS have been under extreme stress and taking vacations overseas was acceptable," adding that "at this time, health-care workers should try to avoid traveling overseas in order to avoid exporting SARS cases."

Please help me understand. Is he saying that it's okay for health-care workers who have been working with SARS patients to go overseas, while simultaneously saying it is not okay to do so?

The article quotes Chen as saying "the hospital deserved support after making a courageous apology to Japan." Courageous, my foot!

While Mackay Memorial Hospital's spokesman Kuo Hsu-ta (郭許達) was answering so-called "irrelevant" questions from Japanese reporters, he gave irrelevant and self-righteous answers implying that Japanese are the ones who visit prostitutes, not Taiwanese.

Kuo was quoted as saying, "I have no idea of what you mean, but in Taiwan, we all know who is buying sex." Is this what Chen considers to be the response of a courageous person?

Chen shoves his foot further into his mouth with the statement: "Facing Japan, Taiwan is now in an indefensible position just like the Hong Kong Amoy Gardens resident who visited Taiwan and spread the disease [here]."

Forgive me for pointing out the difference, even though anyone with common sense should be able to see it. The Amoy Gardens resident -- to my knowledge -- was not a medical professional.

If courage means saying "I did something terrible, but somebody else did it first, so it's okay," then I don't want anything to do with the stuff.

Andrew Hokanson

Taichung City

Key risk factor overlooked

Thank you for your editorial ("The time for selfishness is past," May 15, page 8). It's about time many of the people you referred to had a wake up call.

I would also commend the Taipei City Government for making the wearing of face masks on the MRT compulsory to prevent the spread of SARS, although officials appear to have missed one crucial point.

I travel daily on the MRT, from Tamshui to Shihlin, and have occasion to use the restroom facilities at stations. It never ceases to amaze me that each toilet continues to have an open waste bin displaying feces-covered tissues at a time when it is known that this could actively spread SARS.

I have, on a number occasions, pointed this out to the station staff and asked them to convey this information to their head office, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears as the waste bins remain uncovered.

It also appears that the city government in general and the mayor in particular, seem bent on spending millions of dollars on a new baseball stadium but next to nothing on the sewer system. Could this be that there is lots of publicity mileage in the former but none in the later?

Instead of just reporting about SARS, why not actively campaign to help reduce the risk of transmissions by instructing your reporters to seek out and investigate all areas that may have been overlooked and also elicit the help of your readers?

In the past, whenever we have had a crisis in the UK, The Sun, although a tabloid newspaper, has always taken up this kind of challenge to great effect.

Michael Wise


China should be condemned

As an expatriate and a resident of Taiwan I am appalled at the way in which China has dealt with the entire SARS situation.

It may be true to say that Taiwan has not handled the prevention of SARS expertly. However, Taiwan has not had the backing or the experience of the World Health Organization (WHO) assisting them at every level. Beijing has prevented this. This blatant lying and not allowing or encouraging the WHO to assist Taiwan is tantamount to murder.

The world appears terrified of upsetting China. Why, I have no idea. True, it is a force to be reckoned with, but quite frankly who wants to deal with a nation or a government that is clearly irresponsible and concerned only over its own fate?

China should be punished, either by revoking its WHO membership or a reconsideration of awarding Beijing the Olympics. Perhaps, however, as they say, all things that go around come around, and this time maybe China has shot itself in the foot.

Steven Altman