When Taipei City Bureau of Health (BOH) Director Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) was scolded yesterday by Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), one of her major backers, yesterday, it marked her lowest point in the battle against SARS.
"I have already reprimanded Chiou and asked her to improve supervision," Ma said during the press conference yesterday regarding the administrative error made by bureau Secretary-General Hsiao Tung-ming (
This was the first time ever Ma expressed dissatisfaction in public toward Chiou's performance as the city's anti-SARS commander.
Meanwhile, anti-SARS expert Professor Yeh Chin-chuan also rebuked Chiou two days ago. Yeh is Chiou's predecessor, and it was he who originally recommended her for the directorship.
"Punish those who should be punished, and it's only right to do it quickly," Yeh said to Chiou.
The show of disapproval by a host of top guns may indicate that Chiou's status as Ma's star pupil has started to crumble.
Just two weeks earlier when Chiou handed in her resignation, Ma firmly asked her to stay, and shielded her from the media's and the city council's fierce attacks.
But now, especially after both the heads of the Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control were sacked and new directors installed, Ma finally seems to have stretched his protective wings too wide, and he may not be able or willing to shelter Chiou anymore.
While internal rifts appear to be forming, Chiou has long been criticized by the media.
The media's discontent rose to a new height on the same day Yeh let loose his temper, and almost all major papers trimmed Chiou's coattails yesterday.
First there was the strong contrast between the severe punishment of certificate revoking for the head of Jen Chi Hospital Liao Cheng-hsiung (
Although the Taipei City Government insisted that the decisions regarding how a doctor should be punished were made by an independent doctor's disciplinary board, no one really bought it.
Taipei City Government has been fairly quick and resolute to dish out fines and other forms of punishment to Jen Chi Hospital, which is privately owned, and Taipei Municipal Gandau Hospital, which is administered by Taipei Veterans General Hospital instead of the BOH.
On the other hand, when it came to any neglagence at the bureau's own Hoping, the government expressed hesitance to tread upon the subject.
Then there was the matter of Chiou's reluctance to deal with Hsiao's faults, and the fact of Chiou missing out on Hoping's punishment notice.
During the press conference, even a reporter who was known to be a Ma administration supporter lost her patience with what she perceives as Chiou's unpersuasive answers. She lashed out at Chiou, questioning Chiou with ferocity matching an opposing city councilor.
Last week Chiou also enraged another reporter from a major newspaper by declaring publicly the SARS chronicle printed by the paper was full of mistakes without being able to identify even one single error.