Thu, May 01, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Arrest warrants out for Hoping Hospital fugitives

WANTEDProsecutors issued arrest warrants for two medical workers who have refused to join their workmates in 14 days' compulsory quarantine

By Chang Yun-Ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taipei City Government yesterday ordered police to arrest two medical staff members of Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital who were still evading the compulsory 14-day quarantine for all the hospital's staff.

The quarantine was imposed as a result of a number of cases of suspected severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) occurring at the hospital.

Chou Ching-kai (周經凱), a male surgeon living in the Ta-an district of Taipei City, and Chen Mo-chen (諶模珍), an administrative assistant in Taoyuan County, failed to report for quarantine when the measure was announced.

The Taipei City Government on Tuesday night issued an ultimatum to four of the hospital's staff, making their names public before police took action to arrest them.

Among the four, Hsieh Yi-chun (謝宜君) and Lin Ruei-yung (林瑞詠), both nurses, returned to the hospital yesterday to avoid arrest.

The hospital was forced to shut down on April 24 when it started a mass quarantine of all 930 staff members, 240 patients and visitors.

Taipei City Spokesperson Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said yesterday "the police had acquired warrants from the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office and will start the arrest operation."

According to the Communicable Disease Prevention Law (傳染病防治法), the authority has the power to arrest any individual who fails to cooperate with necessary disease prevention measures, in addition to doling out violation fines between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000.

Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞), director of Taipei City's Bureau of Health said yesterday that hospital staff members who had failed to return to the hospital for quarantine by April 27 would all be fined NT$60,000.

As well as legal action to arrest the uncooperative staff, 37 of the hospital's medical personnel and other workers yesterday were temporarily relieved of their duties on a rotational basis and sent to the Taipei City Public Servant Training Center in Wanfang for another 14-day quarantine period.

The 37 medical workers who had tended SARS patients in the hospital's complex B, were the first group of staff to be evacuated from the hospital.

All medical personnel and patients in complex B were also evacuated yesterday, so that the building could undergo thorough sterilization.

Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday expressed his appreciation of the work of the medical crew leaving the hospital, personally seeing them off with gift kits including monetary awards, a portable radio, vitamins and thank-you cards.

The remaining 500 personnel at the hospital's complex A have been ordered to stay in quarantine for another 14 days inside the hospital building.

Former Taipei City health bureau director Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川) who directed the quarantine inside the facility, said yesterday: "If none of the 500-plus medical personnel develops any SARS-related symptoms during the course of the quarantine, they are expected to be released by May 13."

As of yesterday, the hospital had 12 new suspected SARS cases. The hospital now has a total of 117 reported cases.

Meanwhile the Jen Chi Hospital (仁濟醫院), which was shut down on Tuesday, had been emptied of its employees and disinfected completely for a two-week quarantine.

All of its staff members recalled were sent to the Taoyuan Veterans Hospital for quarantine yesterday, while its 18 SARS patients were sent to Taipei Veterans General Hospital and the Armed Forces Sungshan Hospital for treatment.

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