Mon, May 26, 2003 - Page 2 News List

City health director steps down

NECESSARY MEASURES Sustained pressure by the media over the outbreak at Hoping Hospital led Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou to accept Chiu Shu-ti's resignation

By Debby Wu and Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) caved in to mounting pressure and announced last night he had accepted the resignation of the director of the city's health bureau, Chiu Shu-ti (邱淑媞).

"Chiu insisted on resigning, so I accepted her resignation eventually. She offered her resignation on May 8 for the first time. I declined her resignation because the SARS epidemic was grave at that time," Ma said.

To fill the vacancy, Ma said Deputy Major Ou Chin-der (歐晉德) would temporarily take over as head of the Bureau of Health (BOH).

Chiu offered to resign again on Tuesday but Ma insisted she needed to finish the battle against SARS.

"After having a talk with Chiu tonight, I agreed to allow her to retreat from the frontline of the battle against the disease," Ma said.

Ma said Chiu, who drew criticism after the city government hurriedly sealed off Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital after its SARS outbreak, told him she would take responsibility for turmoil at the hospital.

According to Ma, he agreed to let Chiu go because Taipei City reported only one to two probable SARS cases over the past several days, an indication that the epidemic has gradually stabilized.

While Chiu was under fire from the media, her deputy, BOH Deputy Director Hsu Chun-chiang (許君強), was also running into difficulty.

Reporters asked Hsu whether the bureau had privately apologized to Hoping doctor Chang Yu-tai (張裕泰).

Chang and his colleague Hsin Kuo-hui (辛國輝) expressed anger and disappointment after the bureau announced two days ago that the doctors would be fined NT$90,000 each for delaying reporting possible SARS cases.

Chang explained that the bureau gave notice to the doctors whose names appeared on the files of SARS patients whose cases had been reported late.

Chang said the Department of Infection in Hoping had asked him to sign the files that lacked a doctor's signature to help them accelerate reporting cases to the BOH.

"It was because I was courageous enough to take up the responsibility that I signed," Chang said.

"But the bureau did not even ask me why I signed before they punished me," he added.

Hsin also said he did not put off reporting cases to the infection department and hinted that the fault lay with the department itself. Infection department dean Lin Jung-ti (林榮第) is the third doctor to have been fined after Chang and Hsin, and he is being investigated by the Taipei Prosecutors' Office.

The normal procedure the reporting of statutory communicable diseases is for a doctor to report the cases to the Department of Infection, which then reports them to the bureau.

But the bureau said this procedure was only for the hospitals' convenience and should not interfere with the reporting process and timeliness stipulated in the Communicable Disease Prevention Law.

"I just wanted my name cleared. I do not want to be associated with the likes of Lin," Chang said. "I have been working hard, but it appears to me now that those who do more are blamed more, and those who do less blamed less. My good deeds have come to an evil end."

Hsu, however, responded by saying, "there was no such thing as an apology."

"I did call Chang earlier. We are friends and of course there was the matter of sympathy. When I needed to mete out his punishment, I felt upset, as a friend, that he would be troubled by this. But I am a public servant and have to do what I have to do," Hsu said.

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