Thu, May 22, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Prosecutors' office enforces disease law

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Shihlin District Prosecutors' Office yesterday said that pros-ecutors have begun to investigate whether Gandau Hospital, operated by Veterans General Hospital, should be blamed for not reporting a suspected SARS patient to the Department of Health and the Taipei City Government's Bureau of Health as soon as is should have.

The Taipei City Government has taken the oversight as a violation of the Communicable Disease Prevention Law (傳染病防治法) and issued a NT$300,000 ticket to the hospital on Monday because the law regulates that hospitals should immediately report a patient to its superior authority as a suspected SARS patient if she or he develops a fever.

"In addition to the city government's NT$300,000 fine, on the same day, our prosecutors also began to investigate whether the hospital should take the responsibility for the alleged SARS outbreak inside the hospital," said Wang Jen-kuei (王壬貴), the spokesman for the Shihlin District Prosecutors' Office.

Wang said that prosecutors have looked up documents, such as patients' records, from the Bureau of Health and the hospital itself but they have not decided whom to summon as of press time yesterday.

However, Wang also said that the city government's NT$300,000 fine is regarded as an important precedent for prosecutors.

"Usually, the bureau's officials will not issue a heavy fine like this if they do not obtain any evidence of violation," he said.

According to the Bureau of Health, a janitor at the hospital developed a fever on May 14 and the hospital was supposed to report him as a suspected SARS patient to the bureau and the department on the same day.

However, the hospital did not do so until May 17. During these three days, 10 people at the hospital, including doctors, nurses, nurses' families and patients, also began to develop a fever and were all listed as suspected SARS patients.

As of press time yesterday, none of these patients was confirmed as a SARS patient.

The bureau believed that it was the hospital's mistake.

In addition to the fine, Gandau's superintendent, Wang Sun-sang (王聖賢), was replaced by the director of Veterans General Hospital's chest department, Peng Jui-peng (彭瑞鵬), on Tuesday.

Wang was transferred back to Veterans.

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