Fri, Jan 14, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Ma's popularity hits record low

AFP , TAIPEI

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, left, stands behind a podium with a poster criticizing his leadership for lacking direction, during a session of the Taipei City Council yesterday called to address two recent health scandals. To his right are Chang Heng, director of the city's Department of Health, Department of Transportation Commissioners Jason Lin, and Taipei Rapid Transit Corp general manager Tsai Hui-sheng. Ma has been criticized for the city's response to an MRT accident in which a woman suffered serious scalp injuries and the refusal this week of Taipei hospitals to admit a four-year-old girl in need of emergency treatment

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) popularity has hit a record low after the incident in which a four-year-old girl with critical brain injuries was turned away from major hospitals in the city on Monday, according to a survey released yesterday.

The United Daily News survey found the ratio of people who disapprove of Ma rose 9 percentage points from last month to 26 percent in the wake of the scandal, which provoked a public outcry.

The popularity of Ma, under fire from the public and the city government for his weak response to the incident, is now at its lowest ebb since he took office six years ago, according to the survey.

Some 67 percent of those interviewed for the survey, however, said they were still satisfied with Ma's performance, a decline of 8 percent from last month.

The girl, suffering from severe brain damage after being beaten by her drunken father, was referred to a hospital in Taichung after all major hospitals in Taipei refused to treat her.

Hospitals had claimed there was no space to accommodate the girl for urgent brain surgery. She was reported to be in critical condition yesterday after operations in a private hospital in Taichung.

Ma has apologized to the people of Taipei and to the girl's family, admitting it was "beyond comprehension" that the incident took place in a city with superior medical facilities.

Ma said yesterday that he had postponed a trip to Australia to deal with the issue.

"We owe too much to the little girl and we have failed her. She was already suffering a miserable life before being injured [in the abuse by her father,]" Ma told reporters.

"I am really sorry for not being able to provide her with medical treatment in Taipei," he said.

Ma was scheduled to leave for Australia late last night for a meeting on the Deaflympics games. He had also planned to visit Thailand and make a transit stop in Hong Kong.

He said he could not cancel the trip, since Taipei will host the 2009 Deaflympics, but that he would postpone it by two days.

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