CORONAVIRUS/Father of 2-year-old who died of COVID appeals for truth

05/30/2022 05:51 PM
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Image for illustrative purpose only. Source Unsplash
Image for illustrative purpose only. Source Unsplash

Taipei, May 30 (CNA) The father of a 2-year-old boy in New Taipei who died from COVID-19 complications last month appealed to the government on Monday to explain why it took so long for an ambulance to take his son to hospital, a delay he suggested was responsible for the child's death.

"What exactly happened during those 81 minutes (before the ambulance came to our home)?" the man asked in a Facebook post.

The boy died on April 19 following six days of treatment in an intensive care unit at Shuang Ho Hospital in New Taipei's Zhonghe District.

He became the first child in Taiwan to die of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in 2020.

Attributing the cause of the child's death to the rapid deterioration of his condition after he developed severe symptoms, the hospital said at that time that the boy died of brain stem encephalitis resulting from septicemia that was triggered by the COVID-19 infection.

Prior to his death, nobody under 30 had died of COVID-19 complications in Taiwan.

"After En En (恩恩, the boy's name) tested positive for the disease with a high fever, we repeatedly called Zhonghe District Public Health Center, but the call was never answered. We called the New Taipei fire department, which asked us to get approval from the health center first, and then dialed 119 four times before an ambulance was dispatched," the father said.

"We waited 81 minutes for the ambulance to come, and that was the hardest and longest time in our life.

"Recalling the situation, we were utterly hopeless and as his dad I feel great regret and heartbreak," he said. "I want the authorities to tell us the truth. Why it took 81 minutes for the ambulance to come, and why En En was only able to get to the hospital 91 minutes later."

The father said he and his wife have sent an application to New Taipei City government, the Centers for Disease Control, Zhonghe health center and the 1922 hotline, asking them to make public the call record.

Asked by reporters about the matter prior to a city council meeting, New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) refrained from making any comment, saying only that "every life must be treasured and everything possible must be done to prevent such a tragedy from happening again."

During the meeting, New Taipei City Department of Health Director Chen Ran-chou (陳潤秋) said "everything that should have been done was done," and the dispatch of the ambulance was undertaken in accordance with guidance in the Communicable Disease Control Act.

Because of the incident, the central government later changed its guidelines regarding sending persons confirmed with COVID-19 in home quarantine to hospital, she noted.

Echoing Chen's remark, New Taipei City Fire Department Director Huang Te-ching (黃德清) also said such cases must be handled in accordance with existing procedures and the situation was dealt with based on protocols established by the central authorities at the time.

Also commenting on the issue, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said Monday that recordings of 1922 hotline calls will be preserved for a year, and an applicant should present his or her ID to access the recordings.

(By Flor Wang and Wang Hung-kuo)


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