Wed, Jan 19, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Hospital scandal damages Ma's reputation

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The medical scandal that boiled over last week is not the first crisis that Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration have faced; however, it might be the biggest test of Ma's political career because of his slow, vacillating response to the incident, Taipei City councilors and political analysts said.

Last Tuesday, Taipei municipal hospitals denied treatment to a critically injured four-year-old girl who had been abused by her fatherand was rushed to Taichung City requiring urgent brain surgery. This tragic and unexpected occurrence has almost engulfed Ma and his administrative team andis gradually turning into a political disaster for Ma.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Secretary-General Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) yesterday ordered DPP Taipei City councilors tomore closely supervise of the Taipei City Government's performance, according to Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), director of the DPP's information and culture department.

Cheng quoted Chang as saying that the reason the DPP has maintained a low profile over the fiasco was because it did not want to take advantage of such a tragic event to attack Ma, and thereby mislead the public into thinking that the entire debacle was just a political issue.

"This medical mishap resulted from the Taipei City Government's negligence, and has shocked society," Chang said. "I think the public should not keep silent or tolerate accidents like this, and the DPP's city councilors have to work harder to find out the truth. They must ask the city government to take responsibility and mete out proper punishments," Chang said.

"I also expect that the public should not mistake the DPP's criticism of Ma as a mere witch hunt. Otherwise, we will never find the truth and Taipei's citizens will have to face a similar tragedy again," Chang said.

Some political analysts also bluntly said that Ma has depleted his political assets and popularity with his indecisive handling of a series of recent accidents in Taipei City.

"I thought that this incident did hurt Ma's image and popularity a lot, especially in regard to two images -- one of Ma dancing at the PFP's year-end banquet, and the other of Chang Hang (張珩), the commissioner of the city's Department of Health, visiting the girl on the same day -- which were juxtaposed and broadcast to every family," said Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), a political analyst and assistant fellow of sociology at Academia Sinica.

"Ma should quickly end this medical incident as soon as possible and stop it from bloodying his administration. However, it seems he is unable to deal with it," Hsu said.

"But I doubt it will really impact Ma's chances of running for the presidency in 2008, because of the pan-blue camp's steadfast support," Hsu added.

DPP City Councilor Li Wen-ying (李文英) said that the problem was not simply the health department and the EOC [Emergency Operations Center], but that many bureaus and departments of the city government were so torpid that they were usually the last ones to know about an accident.

"Why didn't the city government's Department of Social Welfare uncover the little girl's misery in time and help to find a sickbed for her, since the girl's case was tracked by the bureau?" Lee said. "If the Bureau of Social Welfare had done its job in regards to abused children well, then the tragedy might never have happened."

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