Wed, May 28, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Control Yuan faults hospital closure

QUESTIONS An investigation committee is trying to determine what happened at the hospital after the Taipei City Government decided to issue the quarantine order

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taipei City Government made a number of mistakes when it sealed off Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital to contain an outbreak of SARS there late last month, members of a Control Yuan panel investigating the issue said yesterday.

"The blockade decision revealed three problems," said Chao Chang-ping (趙昌平), convener of the investigation committee, "the decision to close the hospital was made without a comprehensive consultation with the hospital administration when the health department and the Taipei City Government decided to seal off the hospital on April 24."

Chao made the remarks in a press conference after the Control Yuan's investigation committee finalized the meeting with Wu Kang-wen (吳康文), the hospital's former superintendent, and infectious department head Lin Jung-ti (林榮第) yesterday afternoon.

The Control Yuan questioned whether the decision was made without considering the hospital's situation, such as how many patients, family members and staff members would be left in the hospital and whether they would be given sufficient care during the quarantine, a Control Yuan member said.

Chao said the investigation committee found that the authorities failed to set up a command center right after deciding to impose the quarantine order.

"The lack of an efficient and timely response system might have caused the quarantine measures to be implemented haphazardly."

Six of the seven reported SARS cases that were disclosed by the hospital during the first outbreak were staff members, Chao said, adding that a further investigation will be needed to find out why there was such a high infection rate among hospital personnel.

Chao's colleague Chang Te-ming (張德銘) said the hospital's administration needs to explain the measures adopted after receiving the central health department's reminder about the pneumonia-like epidemic in mid-March.

"The committee's probe will go deep to the city government and the hospital administration's handling of SARS prevention measures between March 14 and April 12, when the first suspected SARS case was revealed at the hospital," Chang said.

He confirmed that the Control Yuan will cope with the issue when it questions former Taipei City Health Bureau Director Chiu Shu-ti (邱淑媞) soon.

Chang expressed doubt that the quarantine could have further exacerbated those patients who were being treated for serious illnesses when the quarantine order was announced.

Liao Jiann-nan (廖健男), another Control Yuan member on the investigation committee, said the Control Yuan's investigation will focus on the how the hospital reported and recorded its SARS cases.

"The hospital's reporting system could be problematic, since we learned from the former hospital superintendent's statement that a superintendent would not be involved in the reporting procedure whereas doctors should be the ones who take responsibility for the late reporting of cases," Liao said.

Earlier yesterday, the ad hoc committee met with Chen Tzay-jinn (陳再晉), former director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), to examine the government's measures concerning the mass outbreak at the hospital.

"It is regrettable that the government was unable to make a timely response to the outbreak regarding emergency measures and risk management," Chao said after meeting with the former CDC chief.

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