Taipei, Feb. 25 (CNA) The Heping Fuyou Branch of Taipei City Hospital has been designated to accommodate patients diagnosed with severe COVID-19 coronavirus infection if a serious community-level spread takes place in the city, a branch official said Tuesday.
Huang Hung-meng (黃弘孟), head of the Heping branch, said that as a communicable disease emergency center in Taipei, the branch holds regular drills to tackle possible occurrences of various communicable illnesses in the city, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a large outbreak that struck South Korea in 2015.
As for COVID-19, which first appeared in the city of Wuhan in China's Hubei Province, Huang said, the city government has staged a drill featuring different scenarios with the Heping branch's participation.
Huang said that in case of a serious community spread of the virus in Taipei, the branch will be cleared of other patients and will admit only serious COVID-19 patients.
According to Huang, the branch is equipped with 29 negative-pressure wards that can contain infectious particles.
Through video conferencing equipment in the wards, Huang went on, patents are able to communicate with medical personnel without any direct contact.
Huang said the wards are located on the ninth floor of the Heping branch with an independent lift, so any entry or exit can be closely monitored.
The negative-pressure wards were set up in the Heping branch two years ago after the hospital spent more than NT$100 million (US$3.28 million) on equipment upgrades as part of the city's efforts to tackle highly communicable diseases.
In addition to the Heping branch, Yu Tsang-hua (余燦華), head of the disease control section of the city's Department of Health, noted that Taipei has 14 isolation hospitals, including National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital, National Taiwan University Children's Hospital, MacKay Children's Hospital and the Koo Foundation Sun Yat-Sen Cancer Center, which are also equipped with negative- pressure wards and can serve as backup to the Heping branch.
Since the coronavirus broke out at the end of December, Taiwan has recorded 31 confirmed cases with one death, while the total number of confirmed cases worldwide has topped 80,000, with more than 2,700 deaths reported, mostly in China.
So far, health authorities in Taiwan have said that the country has experienced no community spread, despite a couple of isolated cases that have not had their sources of infection pinpointed, and that the country has been doing well to contain the virus.
In 2003, the Heping branch was sealed off during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak that killed 73 people in the country.
Taipei City government sources said the city is also planning to set up a quarantine center, which can be used for isolation of people who have had close contact with coronavirus patients.
In Kaohsiung, the city government is mapping out measures to requisition negative-pressure wards in 12 designated hospitals, including Kaohsiung Veterans General Hospital and Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital, according to Lin Li-jen (林立人), head of the city's Department of Health.
Lin said the 12 hospitals have a total of 164 negative-pressure wards, which can be completely cleared to treat serious COVID-19 patients.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said a group of textile makers, including Eclate Textile Co. and Makalot Industrial Co., have joined together to make protective suits and isolation gowns.
Through the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the group will provide more than 1 million protective suits and isolation gowns to medical personnel around Taiwan.