Tue, May 13, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan preparing for bid to join WHA as observer

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

While the nation's health-care system continues to battle the SARS epidemic, medical professionals have begun preparing for Taiwan's bid to enter the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer.

The WHA is scheduled to begin on May 19 in Geneva. Ahead of that, the World Medical Association (WMA), an international organization representing physicians, will hold its council meeting in Divonne-les-Bains, France, from Thursday to Monday.

Wu Yung-tung (吳運東), president of the Taiwan Medical Association (TMA), a branch of the WMA, who will be attending the WMA's council meeting, said Taiwan stood a better chance of winning WHA observership this year than last.

"Many countries showed compassion and understanding toward Taiwan's SARS outbreak," said Wu, also one of Taiwan's ambassadors-at-large.

According to Wu, the WMA passed a resolution to support Taiwan's bid to enter the WHO last year and its council meeting is considered a warm-up for the WHA. Many of the WMA participants will also be attending the WHA, Wu said.

The US Congress and Japanese Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Chikara Sakaguchi have both expressed support for Taiwan's bid to join the World Health Organization (WHO).

Wu said it would be a progress if European countries, some of which last time opposed Taiwan's bid, kept quiet this time.

Meanwhile, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) appointed former director-general of the Department of Health Lee Ming-liang (李明亮) as an ambassador-at-large yesterday.

Lee, now commander of the department's anti-SARS task force, attended last year's WHA.

"We don't know whether he will be joining this year's WHA or not," said Chi Hsueh-yun (紀雪雲), a department spokeswoman.

According to Chi, Lee has kept good relationships with the US Department of Health and Human Services, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the WHO.

Even though he retired from the DOH last year, Lee has maintained his commitment to promoting the country's bid to join the WHO, Chi said.

The help of Dr. Steve Martin and Dr. Cathy Roth, two WHO experts who have traveled to Taiwan, has made considerable difference in the country's battle to contain the SARS outbreak, Wu said.

While Taiwan's medical professionals are not inferior to the WHO experts, Wu said, the WHO is more experienced in coping with an emerging disease like SARS.

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