The Ministry of the Interior yesterday said Taipei City Government did not properly follow up on patients who had visited Jen Chi Hospital prior to it being sealed off last month.
"We will begin our investigation into whether the Taipei City Government should shoulder any responsibility for the mistake," said Vice Minister of the Interior Hsu Ying-shan (許應深).
Hsu's outburst followed reports that an elderly man found dead in an apartment block on Thursday may have visited Jen Chi four days before authorities isolated the hospital.
Speaking on behalf of Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲), Hsu said that the ministry's complaint had been heard by Premier Yu Shyi-kun, members of the SARS response task force, former Department of Health (DOH) director-general Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), former DOH deputy director-generals Fu-yuan (黃富源) and Yang Han-chuan (楊漢泉) and Government Information Office Director-General Arthur Iap during a meeting late on Friday night
The DOH decided to quarantine 400 residents of the Huachang Public Housing Complex in Taipei's Wanhua District and Tali Street's Lane 160 on Friday after a resident died of unknown causes and two of his neighbors were suspected of having contracted SARS.
A 74-year-old veteran, Shih Feng-piao (
On the same day that Shih's body was found, two female neighbors were reported as possible SARS cases.
In a bid to avoid the possibility of a virus spread, the DOH decided to quarantine the entire complex for 14 days.
Taipei City Government officials said that Shih had an appointment at Jen Chi Hospital on April 23, but they could not confirm if he had kept it because the hospital had no record of his attendance. Shih's neighbors, however, claim he had visited the hospital.
The hospital was sealed off on April 27 after several suspected SARS cases were discovered there.
"Taipei City Government does not know if Shih had been to Jen Chi and, therefore, if he should have been quarantined at the hospital while still alive," Hsu said. "We are worried that we may miss a lot more people like Shih and that these people may be infected by SARS or become virus carriers because they were at Jen Chi before it was sealed off," Hsu said.
Meanwhile, Yu Cheng-hsien yesterday visited Shaokang Base, a marine base in Kaohsiung City's Hsiaokang District, and announced that it will provide another 200 beds for quarantined personnel. He also placed the base under the command of the Kaohsiung City Police Department as of today.
"The Ministry of National Defense has helped arrange two military bases for quarantined personnel, but these two bases are almost full," Yu said. "A third base will help alleviate the shortage."