Wed, May 21, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Prosecutors looking for answers

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE An investigative team is looking at patients' records to see who should be blamed for the outbreak at Taipei's Hoping hospital

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taipei District Prosecutors' Office yesterday accessed the file records of the patients at the Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital and tried to figure out whether the hospital's former superintendent Wu Kang-wen (吳康文) and Infectious Diseases Department head Lin Jung-ti (林榮第) were responsible for the SARS outbreak last month.

"Upon the prosecutors' request, we will provide patients' files for March, April and May whenever necessary," said Huang Lien-chi (黃蓮奇), the deputy superintendent of the hospital.

According to Huang, Taipei Chief Prosecutor Chen Ta-wei (陳大偉) was supposed to arrive at the hospital with Center of Disease Control (CDC) officials to look up those records.

However, Chen did not show up and instead asked CDC officials to collect the necessary information for him.

"He said he was too busy at the prosecutors' office to come here himself," Huang told reporters.

Chen is currently leading a team of prosecutors to investigate whether the hospital, Wu and Lin should be blamed for the SARS outbreak last month that has spread far beyond the walls of the hospital.

By yesterday evening, Chen's team had already interviewed a number of patients, doctors and nurses at the hospital but spokesman Chen Hung-ta (陳宏達) confirmed only three interviewees, including Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital vice president Huang Fang-yen (黃芳彥), former CDC director-general Chen Tzay-jinn (陳再晉) and former Taipei City Bureau of Health director Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川).

Chen Hung-ta said that Yeh advised prosecutors to look up the patients' file records because they would contain more useful information to help prosecutors find out whether the Hoping hospital had been honest and open in its reports to the Department of Health about SARS-related patients.

Yeh entered the hospital on April 27 in a bid to control cross-infections. He left the hospital on May 5 after his job was done and his required quarantine period was over.

According to Chen Hung-ta, interviewees' testimony has been critical of Wu and Lin but prosecutors have not decided when to summons them in person. However, now that their quarantine period has been completed, prosecutors will be doing so "very soon."

Lin's quarantine period was over on Monday. Wu's was finished yesterday.

Yesterday morning,when Wu walked out of the Taipei Public Service Institute in Wenshan District where he had been quarantined, he bowed in front of the cameras with tears in his eyes and said, "I am deeply sorry."

However, he refused to make any comments regarding prosecutors' plan to summons him.

When contacted, Lin also had little to say, but did say that he will cooperate with prosecutors and take the responsibility which belongs to him.

At a press conference yesterday morning, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) announced that 41 patients -- ?including a Government Information Office employee and a doctor from Taipei's Country Hospital -- were reported as suspected SARS cases on Monday. That's the highest number since the outbreak began.

"Twenty-four of them are Taipei residents and the rest of them are from outside the city," Ma said.

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