Fri, May 16, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Lawmaker says hospital is cause of tragedy

FAMILY TRAGEDY Six members of one family became infected with the SARS virus while visiting an already ill relative, who later died of the disease

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

DPP Legislator Tuan Yi-kang, back, yesterday accuses Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital of concealing the SARS outbreak there and causing six members of the Chiang family to contract the disease while visiting their sick uncle. The uncle later succumbed to the disease. A family member, Ms. Hsu, sheds tears at the press conference.

PHOTO: CNA

The concealment of the SARS outbreak at Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital had led to seven members of one family contracting the disease from the hospital, a DPP lawmaker revealed yesterday.

"The hospital's infectious disease department head Lin Jung-ti (林榮第) should face charges for generating this tragedy because of his decision to deny existing infections at the hospital," said Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康).

Tuan made the remark at a press conference with the niece of a man surnamed Chiang, who succumbed to SARS.

The grieving niece lambasted the hospital administration for its cover-up of the mass infection from as early as mid-April. The spreading epidemic had claimed one life in her family and caused six other people to fall ill.

"All hospital staff knew that my uncle died of SARS when he passed away on April 24. They never confessed this reality but instead falsified death certificates about the cause of his death," Chiang's niece said.

Chiang, although he was a suspected SARS case, was hospitalized between April 16 and 18 in the same room as an employee in the hospital's laundry department, surnamed Liu.

All the other patients in the room, except Chiang, and their family members had been declared suspected SARS cases after the laundry employee was listed as a confirmed SARS case on April 22, according to the bereaved niece.

Tuan suspected that the delay in confirming Liu's condition caused six of Chiang's family members' to become infected during their visit to the deceased uncle.

Tuan argued that the infectious disease department chief was involved in intentionally camouflaging the truth in an effort to score business achievements for the hospital.

The lawmaker vowed to help victims of the municipal hospital transmissions claim compensation from the city government.

He urged the city government to remain neutral in the investigation of the municipal hospital's handling of the country's first SARS mass infection.

"The city health bureau is not authorized to make further comments on the hospital's handling of the matter, since the ad hoc investigation committee has been inaugurated and the probe is on-going," he said.

Chiang's wife, speaking on the phone, expressed her indignation over the municipal hospital's reckless handling of her husband's death.

"The hospital owes me an explanation about my husband's death and how six members of my family could contract this terrible disease, just because they visited my husband in the facility," she said.

The bereaved spouse was among the six family members who came down with the virus and are recovering from the illness.

She nevertheless commended the hospital's nursing staff for fulfilling their duties whereas she witnessed most doctors in the municipal hospital running away as soon as it was sealed off.

"I am deeply touched by the nursing staff's devotion," she said.

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