Sat, May 17, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Health-bureau head under fire

HOT SEAT Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou and Bureau of Health Director Chiu Shu-ti were on the defensive as councilors questioned the city's handling of the crisis


Several DPP Taipei City councilors urged Bureau of Health Director Chiu Shu-ti (邱淑媞) to step down yesterday, just one day after the director-general of the Department of Health, Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲), offered his resignation.

"Now that Twu has resigned, shouldn't [Chiu] resign?" DPP Councilor Wang Shih-chien (王世堅) demanded yesterday during a council session.

In response to Wang's questioning, Chiu said that she had already offered her written resignation to the mayor last week.

Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), in support of Chiu, said, "I declined to accept Chiu's resignation because we are still struggling to gain control of SARS. It is simply not the right time for her to go."

Other DPP councilors raised similar questions.

DPP councilor Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) asked whether Ma had started to look for a new bureau director.

Ma said he did not know whether hospital outbreaks were going to happen again, and it was not the right time to change officials. "Otherwise, it could affect the morale of the SARS fighters," Ma said.

Although Ma was insistent on keeping Chiu, both he and Chiu offered their public apologies during the council meeting.

"I am sorry that the Taipei City Government could not control the epidemic immediately," Ma said.

Ma and Chiu also bowed to the councilors, as a gesture of apology to Taipei's citizens.

The gesture of remorse did not seem to impress the councilors. Some attacked Ma himself, instead of focusing on Chiu.

Wang told Ma, "All evidence so far has pointed towards Wu having been responsible for what happened in [Taipei Municipal} Hoping Hospital. Why did you decide to send him to Hoping when he was on trial for corruption in a purchase scandal?"

Ma replied by saying, "The trial was closed and Wu was proven innocent before he was made the Hoping superintendent."

Wang insisted that the trial was still ongoing.

DPP councilors also voiced their opposition to a plan for having Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital focus on SARS treatment.

"If Hoping is going to have its equipment upgraded to care for more SARS patients, then other municipal hospitals should follow Hoping's example," New Party Councilor Chen I-chou (陳義洲) said.

"Why should Hoping take in more SARS patients than than other hospitals? Hoping is too close to the local residents, and the area around Hoping is densely populated. Is it really suitable for Hoping to take in so many SARS patients?" Chen demanded.

Ma answered that, "It would be nice if we could have a hospital big enough to contain all the SARS patients in one place, as they do in Singapore. "But Taipei simply cannot do this, due to a lack of resources," he said.

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