Tue, May 13, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Former hospital chief under fire

OUSTED ADMINISTRATOR A report in `Next' magazine accuses Wu Kang-wen of covering up the spread of SARS, a move which led to the deaths of three nurses

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

When the superintendent of Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital, Wu Kang-wen (吳康文), was relieved of duty yesterday, nobody was feeling particularly sorry for him.

Wu, rumored to have hidden the fact of the SARS outbreak within the hospital, was widely considered responsible for the chaos at the facility.

Two nurses from Hoping have already died due to SARS and another's life is in danger.

Wu said in an interview yesterday, "I owe apologies to the medical staff who have contracted SARS."

"I did not know there were SARS cases in the hospital in mid-April. It was probably because our doctors did not find out about them," he said.

"I accept with calm the authorities' decision to relieve me of duty. I will also reflect on the public's criticism of my performance during the past few weeks.

"Although I am not a superintendent anymore, I am still a doctor and I will still share my experience with others to help in the battle against SARS," Wu said.

Staff at the hospital complained to the local media about Wu's conduct as the quarantine neared its end.

According to Chinese-language media reports, hospital staff said Hoping had been taking in SARS patients since mid-April and the administration knew about it. Staff were asked not to reveal the information to the media, according to the reports.

A report in Next magazine said hospital administrators deceived their own staff by saying there were no SARS patients in the hospital, meaning those caring for SARS patients did not take the necessary measures to protect themselves.

Tang Ssu-hu (唐四虎), the husband of deceased Hoping head nurse Chen Ching-chiu (陳靜秋), said, "if Hoping is going to turn into a SARS center, most medical staff will refuse to work under Wu again.

"When Wu scolds his staff, he can be way out [of line]," Tang said.

Tang also hinted at Wu practicing favoritism within the hospital.

Professor Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川), former director of the Taipei City Bureau of Health, said, "it was exactly because Wu was incapable of controlling and stabilizing the situation within the hospital after it was quarantined that I had to go in to take charge."

Yeh is writing a report on the crisis at the hospital.

"Wu will need to be investigated. There must have been faults in his management," Yeh said.

According to the report in Next, Wu had run away from the hospital claiming he had a fever.

"He was in contact with the physical therapist who had contracted SARS, so fever or not, he had to be quarantined for 10 days," Yeh said.

The contact, however, was possibly the result of Wu's actions. According to media reports, after the hospital was shut down, Wu decided to transfer the therapist from Complex B to his office in Complex A to help, despite a strict policy of no exchange of personnel between the two complexes.

Wu denied the allegation, saying he had done this prior to the start of the no-exchange policy.

Wu, 63, is a graduate of China Medical College and obtained his medical degree in Japan.

In 1987, Wu got his first superintendent post at Taipei Municipal Chung Hsiao Hospital (忠孝醫院) when Huang Ta-chou (黃大洲) was Taipei mayor.

Wu was the superintendent of Taipei Municipal Jen Ai Hospital (仁愛醫院) when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was Taipei mayor, but he was fired over allegations of corruption in an equipment purchase scandal.

When Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was elected mayor, he invited Wu back and made him the superintendent of Hoping.

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