Wed, Aug 15, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Ministry sends experts to find cause of hospital fire

DAMAGE:The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it will not shirk its responsibility if it was found that a delay in reporting the fire led to a larger number of casualties

By Lee I-chia and Sean Lin  /  Staff reporters

The Ministry of Health and Welfare has sent two experts to the government-run Taipei Hospital to investigate whether Monday’s deadly fire was caused by systematic errors, a top ministry official said yesterday.

The fire broke out at about 4:30am in the hospice care and nursing home section on the seventh floor of the hospital in New Taipei City’s Sinjhuang District (新莊), resulting in nine deaths.

Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) gave an update on the conditions of the injured: 11 have been transferred to intensive care units and nine to Losheng Sanatorium and Hospital’s nursing home, seven remain hospitalized for treatment and three have been discharged.

Ministry officials visited all of the victims on Monday, distributed consolation money and assigned a social worker to assist each victim, Hsueh said.

“We have also sent experts to the hospital this morning to understand the details of the fire. Information gathered from the incident will be evaluated and serve as a reference for making improvements,” he said, adding that there are two disaster response experts looking into the incident.

The hospital passed the ministry’s inspections for hospital accreditation last month, but the New Taipei City Fire Department on Monday said that a preliminary investigation showed that the hospital had taken about 10 minutes to report the fire and the door to the room where the fire broke out was not closed during evacuation, resulting in a larger number of casualties.

“Prosecutors are investigating whether there was a delay in reporting the fire, so we should wait for the results of the probe. We will definitely not shirk our responsibility if there was a delay in reporting the fire,” Hsueh said.

The hospital accreditation inspection system serves to prevent accidents through information learned from past experiences, and to train hospital personnel to take proper immediate responsive measures if similar accidents occur, he said.

However, if the investigation finds that this particular incident was different from regular fire drills, it would be added to further inspections and drills, he said.

“Passing the hospital accreditation does not guarantee absolute safety, but it could at least minimize damage,” Hsueh said.

Surveillance footage showed that hospital staff on the seventh floor had reported the fire and evacuated the patients, and that staff from other floors went to help, which shows that they have been trained to deal with such incidents, he said.

The ministry does not want to blame any individual hospital staff who were busy saving people, but will focus on reviewing whether there were systematic errors that needed to be improved, Hsueh said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus demanded that Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) step down to take responsibility for the fire.

The incident highlighted major flaws in the ministry’s oversight of long-term care facilities under its jurisdiction and in its handling of accidents, KMT caucus secretary-general William Tseng (曾銘宗) said.

The ministry has not learned its lesson following a fire in July 2016 at a private nursing home in New Taipei City’s Sindian District (新店) that killed seven people, KMT Legislator Arthur Chen (陳宜民) said.

Criticizing “sloppy fire drills,” Che said that some of the casualties were allegedly caused by a seven-minute delay in the hospital reception calling the fire department.

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