President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday opened the nation's first designated SARS treatment and prevention hospital, saying that the government must spare no effort in the fight against SARS.
"The Sungshan Hospital has shown great efficiency by reorganizing itself within 14 days," Chen said. "Now it will serve as the first hospital to treat only SARS patients."
The president, accompanied by Premier Yu Shyi-kun and Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明), toured the military hospital yesterday before hearing a briefing from the head of the institution on how it achieved the government's mission.
One day after a SARS outbreak at the Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital on April 24, the government asked the defense ministry to take into its care suspected SARS cases from the hospital.
On May 6, the government's SARS task force asked the military to designate Sungshan Hospital a specialized virus unit.
Chen wore a surgical mask during the inspection, the first time he has worn one at a public function.
"The Sungshan Hospital has been converted into a SARS-management institute and is equipped with 102 isolation rooms for SARS patients," Presidential Office spokesman James Huang (黃志芳) said. "The president's medical advisory team suggested he wear the surgical mask, which was not an N95, to attend the hospital's inauguration."
Asked whether Chen will continue to wear a mask, Huang said, "It depends on the situation and certainly the president will adopt the suggestions made by his medical advisory team."
During yesterday's inspection, the president praised the hospital for carrying out the government's order before urging the his Cabinet to fully enforce all anti-SARS directives.
"The government must precisely control the supply, allocation, delivery and use of medical masks and protective suits for medical staff on the front line," he said.
Chen also urged all hospitals to focus their efforts on the dispatch of medical staff, the prevention of hospital transmission and measures to cope with hospital emergencies.
"The Department of Health must completely implement a graded treatment program to alleviate the pressure on major hospitals and medical centers," Chen said.
The president again appealed to the public to remain calm and adhere to the government's SARS countermeasures.
"Without cooperation from the public, frontline medical staff -- no matter how dedicated -- will not be able to cope," Chen said. "I hope that everyone in the country can follow the government's regulations."