"Minding the health of the public, so that the public can eat safely, lead healthy lives, and have proper and complete medical health care facilities are the responsibilities of the government" Mayor Jason Hu expressed that the public's health and welfare must be placed at number one.
In March 2004, a citizen of Taichung bought a golden thread fish from a hypermarket and was very disturbed by its strong medicinal odor. Through her own channels, she sent the fish to the National Pin Tong University of Science and Technology for tests. It was discovered that the fish contained formaldehyde. She realized that this is unusual and immediately notified the Taichung City Public Health Bureau Food Safety Section. Early morning on April 2, the Taichung City Public Health Bureau carried out an unannounced check on the fish market, taking with them golden thread fish samples from eight major fish wholesalers for further tests. Other fish samples were also taken for random testing. After conducting tests, the Taichung Public Health Bureau was shocked to discover that some golden thread fish did contain formaldehyde. The Bureau decided to check on all the sources of the fish market to find out where these formaldehyde golden thread fish came from, and also check on other fish.
Apart from random testing and publishing the results, the city government also asked businesses to form a "fish market testing system", thereby strengthening the fishing industry's testing facilities and techniques, and also put in more active promotion through the media and the Public Health Bureau's website to educate the public on how to purchase fresh fish produce, and avoid more incidences like the formaldehyde golden thread fish.
The "formaldehyde golden thread fish" incident is a good example of how Taichung's citizens and the city government worked together.
Minding the health of the public is not an easy task. Sudden occurrences in our every day lives are constantly testing the government's risk management abilities and determination.
In February 2005, revelations that meat from sick or dead pigs had been sold in Taichung caused a scare, and many people were afraid to eat pork. The city government immediately checked all the meat vendors in Taichung city. The main reason for this is not just to find out the sources of this contaminated pork and to figure out where the supply had been sold to, it was also an effort to qualm public anxiety, as well as protect the rights of meat vendors. The city government also announced a new policy, pig farmers who have dead or diseased pigs should just call and the city government will come and help clear them away.
The year before last, during the SARS period, when the central government still had not established a contingency team, Mayor Hu saw the reports in the newspaper and immediately established a city government contingency team. He demanded that all units get the correct statistics of the number of people in quarantine. He demanded that anyone whose household is registered in Taichung and also resides in Taichung must be accounted for. This is one of the reasons why the SARS epidemic jumped from Taipei to Kaohsiung and bypassed Taichung.
Great Achievements in Health and Hygiene
For over three years, Taichung city has had some great achievements in health and hygiene:
- Medical resources and service quality has surpassed Kaohsiung and is catching up with Taipei
In Taichung city, there is an average of 38.6 doctors and 51.4 hospital beds for every 10,000 people. Medical resources here have surpassed that of Kaohsiung, and are catching up with Taipei's standards. And in recent surveys carried out by the media, there is an indication that Taichung citizens' satisfaction level of the medical system sees eye to eye with that of Taipei city.
- Establishing the Taichung city emergency medical rescue services network, making Taichung city's emergency medical rescue services the best in central Taiwan
Since the 921 earthquake, many county governments, city governments and medical establishments have come to the understanding that medical resources should not be segregated by administrative regions. This is why Taichung city's Public Health Bureau has decided to gradually establish an all round network of emergency medical rescue services. This includes establishing a Rescue Command Center in Taichung city, naming hospitals responsible for emergency rescue in Taichung city and establishing an emergency medical rescue network communications system.
- Caregivers for physically and mentally challenged people•establishing Taichung's long term caregiving management center:
Taichung city's Public Health Bureau has specifically asked the Executive Yuan for financial subsidies to establish a "Taichung city Long Term Caregiving Management Center" on September 29, 2003. This center brings together all the resources from social policies, healthcare policies and all other units related to long term caregiving services. Depending on the management policies of individual cases, a "one stop shop" window will provide complete professional care information, training in medical care techniques, caregiving guidance, temporary caregiving services, relocation settlements, welfare services guidance and other multi-faceted services.
- Promoting the community's "Pharmaceutical Care", so that the patients, the government, the medical industry and the pharmaceutical industry alike could enjoy an all-win situation:
"Pharmaceutical Care" is a network that combines hospitals, local pharmacies and chronic disease patients, with an aim to service patients. Up till now, a total of 138 pharmacies in Taichung city under the government health insurance plan are involved in this network. The National Union of Pharmacists Association and the Public Health Bureau has selected Hua Xia Xin Village as a model district for promoting this pharmaceutical care network system. This network initiated the first of its kind where the medical and pharmaceutical industries work together in the community to help patients, so that patients’ medical and pharmaceutical needs could be more properly taken care of.
"Pharmaceutical Care" has extended its care network into BaoShan Community, SanHe Community, YongDing Community, FengShu Community, ZhongHe Community, WenHe Community and also continuing its promotion in the Teachers' New Village. Also, in an effort to extend their services to the community, other policies have been put into action as well, such as infectious diseases prevention education, pulmonary tuberculosis prevention planning and services network, information services network for medicines for quitting smoking, education services network for sexual education geared towards young people and other important services.
Taking Care of the Young Ones, Fighting Enterovirus
During 1998, enterovirus caused serious illnesses and in some cases, death among young children. This had a serious impact on many families and on the community. Years later, cases of enteroviral diseases were still evident in the community. In order to protect young children from this deadly virus, an "Enteroviral Disease Prevention Network" was established. Taichung city carried out the following precautions to prevent further outbreaks of this disease:
- Increasing public educational promotions on enterovirus. Apart from regular broadcasts of promotional videos on the electronic billboard, related health educational material have also been posted on the Public Health Bureau's website.
- Printing promotional leaflets and stickers on the proper five-step hand washing procedure. These pamphlets and stickers are available for free to the public, and it is hoped that the public will carry out these procedures in every day life.
- Conduct check ups of hand washing facilities at elementary schools, kindergartens and day care centers, give instructions on how to properly disinfect their surroundings, and teach young children the correct way to wash their hands, so that diseases can be prevented.
- Strengthening the hospitals' enterovirus disease information system and guidance for clinics, so that when children are suspected to be infected with the virus can be quickly transferred to the three designated hospitals in Taichung (Taichung Veteran’s General Hospital, China Medical University Hospital, Chung Shan Medical University Hospital), and that proper medical care can be administered and death rates from this disease lowered.
Public health and hygiene work is a never-ending task. The aim of all public health workers is to have a healthy general public. Apart from providing the public with quality health and medical supplies, the government also continues to push forward preventative health measures. Increasing educational policies, working on disease prevention, preventing infectious diseases from taking place, unifying medical resources, improving the quality of medical care and also gathering help and assistance from the general public are all efforts to promote the concept of "prevention is better than cure", so that Taichung becomes a city that is healthy and vibrant.