Department of Health (DOH) Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) made an inspection visit to Taipei Municipal Hospital’s Heping branch over the weekend, as the Central Epidemic Command Center issued a checklist for hospitals to ensure they have the proper mechanisms, measures and equipment in place to deal with a possible epidemic.
The center said that the branch, known as Heping Hospital, is one of the 22 hospitals nationwide designated to take in patients infected with category 1 and 5 notifiable diseases. SARS would be a category 1 communicable disease, while the H7N9 subtype of the avian influenza virus would be classified as a category 5 disease.
When SARS broke out in 2003, Heping Hospital was quarantined without the proper preparations or equipment, and several healthcare providers died after being infected.
The directives for containing the spread of the epidemic employed at the hospital and in general were highly controversial and drew a lot of criticism.
During his visit to the hospital, Chiu said he had full confidence in the nation’s ability to handle an epidemic now, saying that the 22 hospitals designated for treating patients with categories 1 and 5 of communicable diseases are fully prepared to handle an outbreak.
“There are 137 hospitals capable of quarantining communicable diseases and they have more than 1,000 beds in total,” Chiu said.
A staff member at Heping Hospital said that the hospital has a testing station for patients that display symptoms of fever.
“The station can conduct a quick diagnostic test on a patient to see if they have contracted a type A or type B influenza,” the staffer said.
“If the result shows that the patient is infected with type A, of which H7N9 is a subtype, they will be asked to wait in a negative pressure waiting area for an X-ray. Afterward, they will be sent to a negative pressure isolation room for further observation if infection is suspected,” the staffer added.
The center’s checklist of items that all hospitals must have and will be inspected for include: quarantine measures; a plan for streamlining a busy flow of patients during an outbreak; a mechanism for monitoring medical personnel’s state of health; a sufficient stock of equipment and resources; proper and sufficient facilities for handwashing and disinfection; and a clear, standardized sanitation procedure.