Fri, May 30, 2003 - Page 2 News List

SARS hospitals need a better plan

CONFUSION Hospital managers and superintendents are urging the health department to implement a new system for patients being sent to designated hospitals

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite signs that the SARS outbreak is waning, hospitals took no break yesterday and asked the government to create a safe medical environment for the public by developing procedures for sending SARS patients to designated new hospitals.

Although the Department of Health (DOH) has appointed 12 hospitals to treat SARS patients, it did not regulate how fever patients should be admitted to the hospitals, said Victor Chang (張煥禎), president of Taoyuan's Li Shin Hospital.

Hospital superintendents and managers across the country yesterday joined a conference hosted by the Taiwan Hospital Association (THA) to review governmental measures related to hospitals during the SARS epidemic.

"The roles of designated SARS hospitals are not clear. Besides, not all counties and cities have such hospitals. Which designated hospitals should we send SARS patients to and who will coordinate the referral procedures?" Victor Chang said.

Chang Chin-un (張錦文), president of the hospital association, said that as the number of SARS patients falls, the government needs to start preparing for long-term battle against the disease.

At the beginning of the outbreak, the health department evenly distributed hundreds of SARS patients to various hospitals so that the hospitals would share the burden of tending to the patients and one institution would not be overtaxed.

Chang Chin-un said the measure was understandable because no hospital could handle so many SARS patients on its own.

"However, many people have since been afraid of going to any hospital because of the presence of SARS patients," he said.

Many of the sick are suffering because they dare not go to hospitals. The number of these people has far exceeded SARS patients, according to the hospital association.

"It is essential to create SARS-free hospitals now, so that people feel safe when seeking hospital treatment," Chang Chin-un said.

While urging the health department to implement a system for doctors to refer SARS patients to designated hospitals, Chang Chin-un also called for other hospitals to support these designated hospitals.

For example, SARS-free hospitals may send health workers to take shifts in SARS hospitals so that the latter's manpower will not be strained.

Chang Chin-un added that designated SARS hospitals need improvements because they are not big enough and their facilities are limited.

Chu Shu-hsun (朱樹勳), director of Taipei's Far Eastern Memorial Hospital, said SARS patients have been "setting fires everywhere" when admitted to hospitals that are inexperienced in handling infectious diseases.

Calling on hospitals that lack training to cope with the disease is like recruiting untrained soldiers to fight on the front lines of the battle, Chu said.

Hsieh Wen-hui (謝文輝), superintendent of Nantou's Yu Ming General Hospital, said the government's initial decision to evenly distribute SARS patients to hospitals was correct.

Hsieh nevertheless echoed suggestions to concentrate all SARS patients in designated hospitals.

"SARS may be with us for a long time. It is important to contian the fires to certain places," Hsieh said.

SARS patients can receive better treatment in designated SARS hospitals because the hospitals will become more experienced in treating the disease, while SARS-free hospitals can focus on handling other less threatening diseases, Hsieh said.

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