Tue, May 06, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Legislators want therapy for all

DAMAGE Not only SARS patients and people in quarantine, but many members of the public have been badly affected by anxieties caused by the spread of the disease

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Opposition party legislators yesterday called on the government to set up a nationwide counseling network to provide counseling services for individuals who have been psychologically affected by the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

"Many SARS patients and people who have been ordered to undergo compulsory quarantine feel that they have been discriminated against and marginalized by others, because of their connection or seeming connection with the SARS epidemic," PFP Legislator Kao Ming-chien (高明見) said at a press conference held at party headquarters. Kao is a former medical director at National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei.

"Psychological counseling therefore is necessary in order to provide these individuals with the necessary support and therapy," said Kao, referring to SARS patients, people who are under compulsory quarantine and medical staff attending to SARS patients.

Last Friday, a man and wife who had been branded "superspreaders" of SARS at Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital expressed their appreciation to everyone who had helped them, while at the same time noting that some of their neighbors and the media have treated them as "a source of evil."

They said that their innocent family members have been hurt and insulted by some of their neighbors and they felt that the general public has collectively discriminated against their family. Both had fully recovered from SARS.

Friends, relatives and neighbors of quarantined individuals and the general public should also feel free to seek advice and help from these counseling services if they have any psychological issues caused by SARS, Kao said.

These counseling networks can function as more than mere psychological services, and could be used to educate people about SARS and related issues, he added.

SARS patients and people under compulsory quarantine often struggle with SARS-related stress and distress, Kao said.

"More often than not, they would go through a cycle of emotions that starts with denial and progresses to anger, which later leads to a sense of withdrawal," said Kao. "But if they have received timely counseling and support, they would be fine and pick themselves up after completing their quarantine period to go on with their lives."

By making counseling services available to everybody, they could help pacify the general public`s anxiety and misgivings about SARS, Kao said, adding that the counseling team could include people such as professional psychologists, volunteers and religious groups.

PFP Legislator Lee Yung-ping (李永萍), a member of the party's SARS prevention and control task force, said that the government could fund these services with budget allocations from the special fund which the legislature had recently passed.

The special fund, totaling NT$50 billion, was passed last Friday. It will be used for subsidizing SARS-related medical expenses and to mitigate the economic impact on local industries.

In related news, the KMT legislative caucus yesterday urged the government to finalize the promulgation of measures stipulated in the special regulation which was passed last Friday, governing relief and prevention measures against SARS.

"We would hereby like to urge the government to promulgate the special regulation within this coming week," said KMT legislative leader Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻), "... so that a complete SARS prevention and control mechanism can soon be set in motion.

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