The Presidential Office yesterday defended the government's decision to move severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) patients from the sealed Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital to other medical institutions as a way to prevent cross infections.
The statement came in response to a CNN report broadcast suggesting that the government had mishandled the SARS outbreak.
CNN reporter Mike Chinoy reported that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USCDC) had advised the government to concentrate SARS patients in one area, but that local authorities had moved patients to other hospitals.
In response, Secretary General to the President Chiou I-jen (
"After Hoping Hospital was closed because of the outbreak of SARS, a man hanged himself, and many medical workers kept complaining that they could not put up with the pressure because they were worried that the medical services at the hospital were insufficient for their needs," he said.
"They were afraid that the collective quarantine would result in cross infections and become a hotbed for SARS, as if they were being left to die," he said.
He said the CDC might disagree with the decision to move SARS patients, but he called on the US for a better understanding of the situation here.
"We need to find appropriate hospitals and make arrangements before we can get all the patients in one place," he said.
He said the government had no choice but to separate the patients first.
"It looks confused but it is a necessary measure," he added.
Chiou made the remarks in response to reporters' questions about the SARS outbreak after a news conference unrelated to SARS.
"The government is doing OK so far," he said, when the media asked him to comment on the government's performance.
"The Taipei City Government was a little slow to respond, while the central government was a little disordered in the beginning," he said.
"It is an unprecedented challenge, so this is understandable," he said.
"We still have room to improve; however, it is too early to blame government officials," he said.
In addition, he stressed that the Presidential Office was ready for any developments in the epidemic, and the president would respond promptly by calling another meeting with senior officials if necessary.
The Presidential Office recently convened a meeting with senior Cabinet officials and reached a consensus on several aspects of the battle against the disease.
Asked if there would be another meeting between the Presidential Office and the Cabinet, Chiou said, "It depends."
He said that President Chen Shui-bian (
He added that the previous meeting had not discussed upgrading the epidemic-prevention level yet and the issue should be left to medical experts to decide.
On Wednesday, Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) and Department of Health Deputy Director-General Lee Lung-teng (李龍騰) defended the government's actions.