Fri, May 16, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Military chafes at Cabinet's plans for Taichung hospital


The Cabinet has designated the Taichung City branch of the Military Taichung General Hospital as the SARS facility for central Taiwan, but the decision has yet to be accepted by the military and the Taichung City Government.

Responding to the decision, announced on Wednesday, the Ministry of National Defense said the designation of the military hospital in Taichung County is just one of the options under consideration.

The hospital, formerly the 803rd army hospital, also said that if its Taichung City branch is to be turned into a SARS facility, it must first be provided with enough funds for the conversion of ordinary wards into SARS isolation wards.

A spokesman for the hospital said other preparatory arrangements must also be made.

"For the moment, no such arrangements have been made," the spokesman said.

The responses of the different branches of the military to the Cabinet's announcement indicated that the move came as a surprise.

The decision was made on Wednesday by Cabinet Secretary-General Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) at a SARS meeting in Taichung. The meeting was attended by leaders of local governments in central Taiwan.

As Liu made the announcement, Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) said he had been neither consulted nor notified about the Cabinet's decision.

The military also questioned the Cabinet's decision-making process, saying it feels it has been asked to follow orders, whether it likes them or not.

An official with the military hospital said the Cabinet's decision would see hospital revenues plunge.

"Half of the hospital's staff are contract workers and get their pay from a fund whose source is hospital revenues," the official said.

"They are sure to lose their jobs if the hospital becomes a SARS facility since no one dares to go to a hospital once it has been isolated with SARS patients," he said.

"It is just a matter of time before the military hospital is designated a SARS facility since it is the largest of its kind in Taichung County," he said.

Last Saturday, the military hospital became the first of its kind to launch a hospital closure exercise.

The hospital's director, Major General Meng Fang-kang (孟繁崗), said he is not sure how the military leadership will deal with the hospital.

"We are waiting for instructions," Meng said.

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