CORONAVIRUS/Clinic fined NT$4 million for vaccinating non-priority individuals

06/19/2021 10:27 PM
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A sign pointing to the Good Liver Clinic. CNA file photo
A sign pointing to the Good Liver Clinic. CNA file photo

Taipei, June 19 (CNA) Good Liver Clinic has been fined NT$4 million (US$144,404) for disregarding the central government's lists of people who should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination, the Taipei City government said Saturday.

In the case, the city's Department of Health has also come under scrutiny, with three officials there now being investigated for their alleged roles in the clinic's contravention of the central government's guidelines on COVID-19 vaccination, the Taipei Department of Government Ethics said.

Apart from those three officials, the city's Department of Health Commissioner Huang Shier-Chieg (黃世傑), who has offered to resign over the issue, will be investigated separately, the ethics department said.

At a news conference, ethics department commissioner Shen Feng-liang (沈鳳樑) said an investigation by his department had found that two Good Liver clinics had disregarded the priority list issued by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC). As result, the two clinics were each fined NT$2 million, he said.

The matter first came to light on June 9, when it was reported that Taipei's health department had distributed COVID-19 vaccines to Good Liver Clinic, without verifying the recipients, at a time when thousands of frontline medical workers in the country had not yet been vaccinated due to short supply.

The clinic reportedly administered some 1,000 shots to people who were not on the CECC's priority list, and it also managed to obtain an additional 1,150 doses from the three officials at the Taipei health department, according to Shen.

Only about 100 shots were give to eligible staff members at the Good Liver clinics, while the rest went to "volunteers" at the Good Liver Foundation, run by Sheu Jin-Chuan (許金川), who also operates the clinic.

The volunteers named by the local media included Jan Hung-tze (詹宏志), chairman of the e-commerce plarform PChome Online, TV personality Huo Chang-ming (侯昌明) and his wife, and actor Kuo Tzu-chien (郭子乾).

They later apologized, saying they had not sought any special treatment but had been informed by the clinic that they could receive their jabs because they were the volunteers at Good Liver Foundation.

As most medical workers at the clinic had already received COVID-19 vaccine shots, the doses were given to the volunteers at the clinic and the Good Liver Foundation, which operates the clinic, Shen told reporters.

Prior to the Good Liver Clinic distribution, four clinics under the Dianthus Medical Group also received 850 COVID-19 vaccine doses from the Taipei health department, on the instruction of the department head, he said.

The Taipei City Government had not agreed to supply any clinics with vaccines for their own staff, as that would have been unfair to the many medical workers who had to stand in long lines to get their shots, before Taiwan was able to launch a wider vaccination program on June 15 after receiving 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from Japan, Shen said.

The Taipei health department also failed to refer to the National Immunization Information System, which would have given a clearer picture of who was receiving the vaccines at Good Liver Clinic and why it had requested an additional 1,000 doses on June 8, he said.

While the clinic told authorities it would vaccinate its volunteers, it did not adhere to the requirement that they should be registered healthcare volunteers, Shen said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said Saturday at a news conference that he will decide later whether or not to accept Huang's resignation.

Ko also said that Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Kao Chia-yu (高嘉瑜) had lobbied health authorities to supply Dainthus Pediatric Clinic with vaccines, an allegation that Kao denied. Kao said she had merely informed the health department of the clinic's requests.

(By Chen Yi-hsuan and Frances Huang)

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