DOH to help TB patient resume treatment

The China Post news staff

TAICHUNG, Taiwan — The Cabinet-level Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday that it will arrange for a fleeing patient infected with a dangerous form of tuberculosis to obtain proper treatment.

Chou Chih-hau, deputy director-general of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) under the DOH, made the remarks after Lee Chen-chu told a lawmaker that he would like to return to hospital to resume treatment. Taichung Hospital confirmed Monday that Lee had returned to the hospital, but said that “out of respect for his wishes, it would arrange for him to be transferred to the hospital of his choice.”

Lawmaker Chang Chia-chun of the Kuomintang, elected from the southern county of Yunlin, said yesterday that she had contacted Lee through a friend of his. Lee promised to resume treatment, asking for an early transfer to another hospital for surgery to remove lesions on his lungs, she said. Chou said CDC Director General Kuo Shu-sung had communicated with Chang a day earlier, asking her to persuade Lee to return to the hospital in the interest of public safety.

The CDC will arrange for Lee, who had previously refused to have the lesions on his lungs removed, to get proper treatment, Chou said.

Chou continued that the CDC will begin an investigation to locate individuals who may have had contact with Lee and help them have medical examinations if necessary.

Lee, who was diagnosed with multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), fled Taichung Hospital through a fire door last Wednesday night after breaking the alarm system. Lee had been receiving treatment at the hospital since last July.

The DOH was forced to publicize Lee’s identity for fear that he could become infectious once his treatment had been discontinued. Lee did not take his medication with him when he fled. The DOH believed that Lee had been staying at a relative’s home in Yunlin County.

Lee first made headlines when he and his wife, who was also suffering from TB at the time, traveled to China via Hong Kong in July 2007 in defiance of a travel ban.

The DOH had to urgently seek China’s assistance to track them down at a hotel in the northern part of Jiangsu province. Health officials escorted the couple back to Taiwan via the direct ferry links between Xiamen and Kinmen.

Lee and his wife were sent to Taichung Hospital for compulsory treatment in late July and his wife has since been cured and discharged from the hospital.

Starting on July 1, 2007, the DOH banned MDR-TB patients from taking any international flights and those with infectious TB from taking international flights of eight hours or longer. Violators are subject to fines of up to NT$150,000.