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Tue, May 16, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Legislator calls for probe into mental patient abuse

HEALTH A KMT legislator is leading the battle to bring to the public eye what he calls the `inhumane treatment' of patients at a Tainan County mental institution

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

KMT lawmaker Shyh Jong-shyong, during a press conference yesterday, makes public a videotape taken during an inspection of the Chungsheng Institute for the Mentally and Physically Handicapped, located in Hsinhua village, Tainan County. For the last 17 years, the Institute has failed to obtain a license to operate legally, and has been accused of abusing patients in its care.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

After revealing the inhumane conditions at a rural institution for the mentally and physically disabled in Tainan County, a KMT lawmaker has demanded its proprietor be brought to justice and a thorough investigation be launched.

KMT legislator Shyh Jong-shyong (徐中雄) said he was overwhelmed by what he saw during a visit yesterday to the Chungsheng Institute for the Physically and Mentally Handicapped (眾生教) in the remote village of Hsinhua in Tainan County.

"I simply cannot believe what I saw there. The living conditions and sanitary arrangements the patients face are worse than those of a pig sty," Shyh said.

"It's shameful for a country whose average per-capita income is above US$15,000, and whose government keeps boasting about making social welfare improvements, to allow such a situation to exist."

While showing a videotape to the media, Shyh, who is himself physically disabled, said patients, often handcuffed or wearing leg irons, are driven out of their rooms in the morning to enable janitors to clean their rooms.

"Janitors use water hoses to clean the urine and feces left on the metal-frame beds they sleep on. Flies are everywhere, often perching on patients' eyes, ears, mouths and lips. I suspect everyone has skin infections," he said.

He called on the incumbent Tainan County commissioner, Chen Tang-shan (陳唐山), to respond to the situation before he leaves for his new post as Chairman of the National Science Council (國科會).

Shyh said he would call an emergency meeting this morning to urge related authorities from the central government, to tackle the case within two weeks.

As an interim measure, Shyh proposed the central government take control of the institution immediately, and that the renowned Tzu Chi Buddhist Compassion Relief Foundation (慈濟基金會) manage it in the long term.

Also on the agenda, Shyh said, were plans to request the Control Yuan to impeach related authorities for negligence over the years since the institution's establishment in 1983.

Shyh also said he would press for a lawsuit to be filed at the Tainan district office against the proprietor, Hsueh Wo (薛我), for violating the Welfare Law for the Handicapped and Disabled.

According to Shyh, the institute, which started operating illegally in 1983, has a total of just seven staff -- only two of whom are actually engaged in taking care of its 197 patients. The institute's inmates vary in age from 10 to 80 years old.

The Chungsheng Institute does not have a license to operate, as required by law.

Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如), chairman of the Parents' Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (智障者家長總會), who accompanied Shyh during the visit, was in tears when describing the scene.

"As a parent of a mentally disabled child, I was shocked and angry about what I saw," Chen said. "We reported the case to the Ministry of the Interior's Social Affairs Department four years ago, but obviously nothing has been done." Chen said.

The home even has a 30-space parking lot to accommodate buses that take people there to see how bad the environment is, Chen said, adding that the visitors are then asked to make donations to "improve" the situation.

"I don't see the money being used to make any improvements," she said. "The staff also told me that they haven't been paid for over one-and-a-half years."

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