The Taipei City Government has established a SARS Emergency Response Task Force and closed the Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital in order to combat the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.
Yesterday, the cross-departmental task force, headed by Taipei Deputy Mayor Ou Chin-der (歐晉德), ordered the Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital to close its operations immediately. It also ordered all of its 930 staff members and 240 patients to stay in the hospital in order to prevent the further spread of the SARS virus.
Ou said the move was made in accordance with the Cabinet's decision yesterday to close the hospital and that the city government had sought assistance from the Department of Health and Ministry of National Defense for the necessary medical aid and logistic support to handle the quarantine.
PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES
"All of the 930 staff members of the Hoping Hospital will be summoned back to the hospital for a collective two-week quarantine, and the order went into effect at 1pm yesterday. The 240 patients staying at the hospital are not allowed to check out and will receive collective treatment.
"Meanwhile, all the family members of all the hospital's medical staff are subject to stay at home for two weeks," Ou announced yesterday at the press conference.
Meanwhile, a special medical team comprising medical experts from the Academia Sinica, DOH and the city's Bureau of Health will move into the Hoping Hospital to provide emergency medical assistance.
A medical team will control the movement of people into and out of the hospital.
Asked by reporters if the 240 patients would still be tended to if all the medical staff members go through quarantine, Ou said yesterday all the hospital's staff members would remain on duty at the hospital.
"They will perform duties as usual, they are just required to stay at the hospital for two weeks," Ou said.
Taipei City Spokesperson Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) yesterday said such a mass-scale quarantine imposed on the hospital's medical staff, patients and family members is probably unprecedented in Taiwan's medical history.
He urged all the hospital's staff, patients and family members to cooperate the quarantine order.
"The city's social workers will provide daily necessities to those who are put in quarantine, while the police force will be employed to ensure everyone who is quarantined complies with the orders. Violators of the quarantine order will be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000," Wu said yesterday.
Director of the city's Bureau of Health Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) yesterday announced that the hospital will designate a SARS emergency unit to accept all the SARS-related cases.
The public can use the hot line 02-2388-9617 to inform the special medical team should any individual develops symptoms related to SARS.
Chiou said that though the mass-scale quarantine may inconvenience the Hoping Hospital's staff and patients, it is important as it is the only way to protect the public.
"Please note that not all of these members quarantined are infected with SARS. We're doing so because of a 10-day window period for anyone to develop SARS-related symptoms.
"Only 26 of them are infected, and have been dispersed in different hospitals around the city. Ninety-five percent of them are healthy," Chiou said.
Wu Kang-wen (
The Department of Health also ordered the Taipei City Department of Health to take over the nerve center of the hospital and take charge of all the hospital's medical-related operations until the SARS threat subsides, DOH Deputy Director-General Lee Lung-teng (李龍騰) said.
The drastic move was taken on the heels of news that seven staff members of the hospital reportedly came down with possible SARS symptoms Tuesday, marking the first multiple appearance of possible cases since the disease first appeared in the country early last month.
The number of suspected SARS cases stemming from the hospital increased to 26 yesterday after 10 more cases were reported overnight.
Of the 26, seven are probable SARS cases, three are suspected cases, while the remaining 16 cases have yet to be determined.
The 10 newly-reported SARS cases include three doctors, one patient, four family members of the patient and two nurses.
Lee said that beginning yesterday, all inpatients already admitted to the hospital will be closely monitored by having their temperature taken and chests examined daily.
None of the hospital's inpatients will be allowed to check out. Those who checked out over the past week will receive follow-up medical checks and be ordered to stay at home for a 10-day quarantine period, Lee said.
Meanwhile, a student surnamed Lin from the Cardinal Tien Junior College of Nursing who is an intern nurse at the hospital, was transferred to the Keelung General Hospital yesterday for treatment after she was diagnosed as a probable SARS case -- one of the seven new "probable" cases that stem from the hospital.
The other six new "probables" have either been transferred to National Taiwan University Hospital or remain in Municipal Hoping Hospital under medical observation and in quarantine.
Because Lin came down with SARS symptoms, the Cardinal Tien Junior College of Nursing announced a suspension of all classes for 10 days beginning yesterday, making it the first school in the country to close down temporarily because of SARS.
Sixty to 70 people with whom Lin has had contact over the past few days have also been asked to observe a 10-day quarantine period at home.
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