CORONAVIRUS/Health minister censures New Taipei hospital over COVID-19 protocols

06/24/2021 09:22 PM
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En Chu Kong Hospital. CNA file photo
En Chu Kong Hospital. CNA file photo

Taipei, June 24 (CNA) Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) on Thursday waded into a row between a New Taipei hospital and the Kaohsiung health department, saying that the former had not observed the proper rules for quarantine when COVID-19 cases were found there.

If an inpatient at a hospital tests positive for COVID-19, all close contacts of that person must be quarantined, said Chen, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

At-risk persons, meanwhile, should follow self-health management protocols for 14 days if there is only one case at the hospital, and they should be quarantined if more cases emerge, Chen said, defining that group as patients in rooms near the COVID-19 infected person, who are being tended by the same healthcare workers.

En Chu Kong Hospital in New Taipei, however, failed to quarantine all at-risk personnel, even after several COVID-19 cases were confirmed there, Chen said, backing the argument by the Kaohsiung Department of Health.

In a press release Wednesday, the health department said En Chu Kong Hospital was the source of a cluster infection in Kaohsiung that had started because the hospital did not follow CECC protocols when it identified a number of COVID-19 cases among its staff and patients.

According to the health department, the seven new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Kaohsiung over the past three days were traced back to a patient who had surgery at En Chu Kong Hospital on May 24 and was discharged three days later.

For the four days the man was in hospital, he was in a room two doors down from a patient who later tested positive for COVID-19, but he was not tested or quarantined, the health department said at the time.

During the man's follow up visits to the hospital after his discharge, it was clear that he had COVID-19 symptoms, but he was not tested, and the hospital did not report the matter to the relevant health authorities, the department said.

This was clearly "a dereliction of duty" on the part of En Chu Kong Hospital, the Kaohsiung health department said.

In response, the hospital said in a statement Wednesday that its first COVID-19 case was a patient who had been admitted May 22 and had tested negative at that time but was confirmed on May 29 to be infected.

The man referred to by Kaohsiung health department as the source of the seven new cases in the city was not listed as a close contact of the hospital's first COVID-19 patient, because the man was in a room two doors down, the hospital said.

The hospital confirmed, however, that during a follow-up visit by the man on June 17, doctors at the hospital wanted to have him tested for COVID-19 because his chest CT scan had shown some abnormalities, but he refused.

"We welcome criticism and will continue to strive to provide the best medical services to our patients," the hospital said.

On Thursday, Kaohsiung reported six more domestic COVID-19 cases linked to the cluster, bringing the total number of cases related to the cluster to 13.

(By Chen Jie-ling, Chang Ming-hsuan and Chiang Yi-ching)

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