Both the Cabinet and the Taipei City Government yesterday said that they will punish medical personnel and institutions who do not cooperate with quarantine orders aimed at limiting the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
During a meeting of the Executive Yuan yesterday morning, two doctors and two hospitals were singled out for punishment -- Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital surgeons Dr. Chou Ching-kai (
Both Chou and Lee failed to report to Hoping Hospital after a compulsory 14-day quarantine for all its staff was announced last Thursday.
Lee did not return to the hospital until Tuesday. He allegedly continued working at his private clinic in Taipei after the quarantine order was issued.
Chou did not return to the hospital until shortly after 7pm yesterday, after the Taipei City Police Department put him on a "wanted list" and sent officers out to look for him. Chou's wife -- who must also be quarantined -- remains at large.
Officials say Chou and Lee violated the Doctor's Law (醫師法), the Medical Treatment Law (醫療法) and the Communicable Disease Prevention Law (傳染病防治法). The Taipei City Government said Lee could be fined NT$60,000, while Chou could be fined up to NT$240,000 and could face charges.
The Department of Health (DOH) has accused Jen Chi Hospital of misreporting two cases of suspected SARS and transferring the patients to other hospitals.
DOH officials said that the Chiayi Christian Hospital negligently released two suspected SARS patients and asked them to go, by themselves, to National Taiwan University Hospital for further treatment.
It was later determined that neither person had SARS.
Speaking on behalf of Premier Yu Shyi-kun, Cabinet spokesman Lin Chia-lung (
"They face the potential of having their licenses suspended, being fined or maybe jail time," Lin said.
The Taipei City Government announced late last night that Chou will be disciplined and fired.
Meanwhile, the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office said that it has already begun an investigation, but the cases of doctors evading quarantine are different from criminal cases.
"Medical personnel who violate medical-related laws do not have to be facing any criminal charges before prosecutors can indict them." said Chen Hung-ta (陳宏達), spokesman for the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office.