Sun, May 11, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Lawmaker warns against flaw in SARS-alert system

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A DPP lawmaker yesterday warned against a flawed alert system to monitor the latest severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) infection situation, as he claimed that a leading hospital was incorrectly practicing the required procedures for reporting a suspected case.

"The case of the Pacific Sogo cashier, whose medical-test results were delayed because the Center for Disease Control (CDC) could not acquire her test sample until Friday, demonstrated a loophole in the reporting mechanism conducted at the National Taiwan University Hospital," DPP Legislator Chiu Yeong-jen (邱永仁) said at a news conference.

The cashier, surnamed Lee, reportedly fell ill with SARS on Tuesday, prompting the store to place the other 175 employees at the department store into home quarantine. The CDC declared Lee a probable SARS case yesterday afternoon, after the sample test was finalized on Friday night.

Expressing his worry, Chiu said that the leading hospital's oversight of affixing the patient's sample to the CDC could negate all previous efforts of containing the disease completely.

"The hospital did not deliver the cashier's sample to the CDC when it reported the case the first time. The CDC however also did not figure out that the report was incomplete until Thursday," Chiu said.

The suspect case's test sample was finally collected from Hsin Chu Hospital and sent to the CDC when the center realized that it had not received any samples, he said.

Chiu argued that, in accordance with the CDC's published reporting procedure, the hospital should have reported the suspect SARS case and sent samples of the patient's pharyngeal and blood as well as X-rays to the center on May 3.

The CDC, moreover, should have finalized the test work within 36 hours and given the result before May 5. "The procedure was in fact deferred for five days," the lawmaker told reporters.

An invited CDC official to yesterday's news conference, Yang Shih-yang (楊世仰), acknowledged that his office was late in realizing the mistake.

"A review of the flawed reporting system will be discussed in an internal meeting today, in addition to a stern warning that the CDC will demand that hospitals ensure that thorough report procedures are carried out," the CDC official promised.

According to a report presented at the press conference, 108 of the total of 942 suspect cases of SARS on the island were reported to the authorities without affiliated test samplings.

"The hospital topped the list of leaving out the requested enclosures with 47 cases, almost half of the total. Such inefficiency in the frontline-alert system is worrying," he warned.

The legislator urged the hospital, which he marked as one of the leading players in the nationwide effort to control the epidemic, to ensure that its implementation of the alert system is faultless.

Lee, the Sogo store employee, went for treatment to a local hospital close to her home in Taipei County on May 3 after developing a fever. She was advised to consult the university hospital and was transferred to Hsin Chu Hospital after the hospital listed her as a suspected SARS case later the same day.

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