Thu, May 15, 2003 - Page 2 News List

SARS worries grow in Kaohsiung

EMERGENCY MEASURES With more than 100 of its staff in quarantine, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital has been told to take further action to limit the crisis

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Department of Health yesterday confirmed that some people had been infected with SARS at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and urged the hospital to take emergency measures to prevent further infections.

"We believe that there is only limited local transmission at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital," said Center for Disease Control (CDC) Director-General Chen Tzay-jinn (陳再晉) at a press conference in Taipei. "The situation can be managed professionally."

Emergency measures include preparing isolation areas for SARS patients, the health department said.

A special team of four physicians and three senior nurses dispatched by the CDC yesterday began work at Chang Gung.

Chen said that such emergency measures had been carried out successfully at other hospitals, such as Chung Hsing Municipal Hospital in Taipei.

There are now 107 staff members at the hospital in isolation, including 15 with SARS-like symptoms. Five of the 15 have been identified as probable SARS cases.

Two of the staff members were in critical condition yesterday, including a 28-year-old doctor who was in a coma.

On Tuesday, the 10th, 11th and 12th floors of one of the hospital's buildings were disinfected. The emergency room was closed for disinfection early yesterday morning and reopened later in the day.

Yesterday, all suspected SARS patients were relocated to specially prepared rooms on the 13th floor of the building.

Hospital staff yesterday continued to deny that the infections inside the hospital were out of control.

"There's no cross infection inside the hospital," hospital spokesman Chen Shuen-sheng (陳順勝) said.

"The limited infection can be attributed to close contact with a probable SARS patient who concealed her medical history," Chen said, referring to a woman who had stayed at Jen Chi Hospital in Taipei, which was closed after a number of SARS cases were discovered there.

The woman, who has not been named, also infected a woman who was sharing a room with her and the other woman's relatives.

Chen Chao-long (陳肇隆), superintendent of the hospital, said yesterday that the situation was manageable and they had never considered closing the hospital.

Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, located on the border between Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County, is one of the largest in southern Taiwan. Both local authorities have been working together to manage the crisis.

"We will work closely with neighboring counties to trace possible sources [of SARS infections] as soon as possible," Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said yesterday.

Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興) convened an emergency meeting yesterday to keep his government abreast of the situation.

The crisis at Chang Gung has also put a strain on nearby Kaohsiung Veterans General Hospital, where the number of people visiting the emergency room rose yesterday to about 5,000 from the usual average of about 3,000.

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