Taipei Municipal Gandau Hospital will be fined NT$300,000 because of delays in reporting SARS patients, the Taipei City Government said yesterday.
It is the first time a hospital has been fined by the city government because of SARS irregularities.
Gandau Hospital's first SARS patient, a cleaner at the hospital surnamed Lee, is believed to have been the source of the other seven SARS infections connected to the hospital.
Lee was admitted to the hospital's emergency department with a fever on May 11.
He developed signs of pneumonia three days later.
The hospital immediately put Lee in isolation but did not report him to the Taipei City Government Bureau of Health until Saturday.
Bureau director Chiu Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said that hospital defended itself by claiming that they thought Lee had a normal case of pneumonia.
"By quarantining Lee, the hospital showed that it suspected Lee's illness to be SARS," Chiu said. "The hospital will be fined over the delay."
"The delay is punishable by the Communicable Disease Prevention Law (傳染病防治法) and the hospital will be fined NT$300,000," Chiu said.
When asked to comment on the fine, a spokesman for Gandau Hospital said, "We accept the decision, although we are considering an appeal at a later stage. Right now our priority is to win the battle against SARS."
The hospital declined to comment further.
Gandau Hospital will remain closed until next Tuesday at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the first Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital employees to complete their quarantine were released from Chiho Public Housing Complex yesterday.
They were due to start work immediately at Taipei Municipal Chung-Hsin Hospital.
However, Chinese-language media reported that 21 employees offered their resignations yesterday.
"We will ask the superintendent to talk with them and see why they want to quit. We will offer encouragement and counseling to the Hoping Hospital employees," Chiu said.
"Don't forget that resignation is a personal choice and if they still insist on leaving, we have to respect their decision," Chiu said.
In other news, Taipei's health bureau yesterday said that it would ask the central government to impose a mandatory 72-hour quarantine on people with a fever over 37.5?C.
The bureau said that because SARS was still spreading, the country should adopt tougher measure to contain the epidemic.
"SARS has subverted the traditional thinking in medicine that a fever is no big deal. Fever is a very big deal and should be treated carefully," Chiu said.
Chiu said that the bureau had reached an agreement with the Taipei Medical Association to ensure that hospitals will ask patients with fevers to stay at home for three days.
Hospitals will also issue a diagnosis certificate so that the patients can take time off work.
However, Chiu added that if the central government did not make the 72-hour home quarantine obligatory, then companies might not be willing to grant sick leave.