Wed, May 07, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Defense minister may resign post

MORTAL ENEMY Tang Yau-ming may end up taking the fall if the military fails in its efforts to keep the spread of the disease under control

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of National Defense Tang Yau-ming (湯曜明) will leave his post if the ministry fails to keep the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) under control, Vice Minister of National Defense Lin Chong-pin (林中斌) said yesterday.

But the current priority should be how to fight SARS, rather than discussing who should take the political responsibility for the spread of the disease, Lin said.

"Tang told me that he will resign if he fails in the fight against SARS," Lin said. "But at this moment, it would be better to spend our time figuring out the best way to deal with the outbreak."

Lin was responding to PFP Legislator Chin Huei-chu's (秦慧珠) criticisms during the legislature's National Defense Committee meeting on Monday. Chin questioned the ministry's punishment of top military staff who failed to keep the spread of SARS under control. She suggested that the minister should resign as well if he fails.

Currently, the chief officer and chief political warfare officer will be removed if any personnel contract SARS or if SARS-infected personnel at their unit are not reported.

In addition, any of the ministry's 19 military-hospital directors or chief political warfare officers will be removed if their hospitals are found to be responsible for the spread of SARS, as had occurred at the Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital.

During an Internet conference with the ministry's ad hoc SARS response task force yesterday morning, Lin also discussed conditions at the Tri-Service General Hospital (三軍總醫院) and the Armed Forces Sung Shan Hospital (國軍松山醫院).

The National Defense Medical Bureau (軍醫局) yesterday confirmed the first suspected case of SARS in the military. The private, whose surnamed is Liu, works at the Armed Forces Hualien Hospital's Taitung branch.

The bureau said that the soldier is being hospitalized at Mackay Memorial Hospital's Taitung branch.

All military personnel who have been in contact with Liu have been quarantined.

The bureau said that Liu visited Taipei's Wanhua District, where Hoping Hospital is located, during his vacation from April 25 to April 29.

Although he did not visit any hospitals or have any contact with any known SARS patients, when he returned to his duties he began to cough and have a fever. He was then immediately sent to Mackay for further treatment.

"Liu coughed from time to time and had a fever when he was sent to Mackay on May 1, so we labelled him a suspected SARS patient. He is now recovering and his colleagues remain quarantined. Everything is under control," said Lieutenant General Chang Sheng-yuan (張聖原), director of the bureau.

The bureau said that in addition to Liu, 87 military personnel are being quarantined at home and another 55 are quarantined at their bases, although none have been diagnosed with SARS.

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