Taipei, June 21 (CNA) A Taipei nursing home that has reported 47 COVID-19 cases and is under investigation for covering up suspected cases of the disease is accusing city health authorities of handling the situation in a "slow" and "chaotic" manner.
According to Taipei's Department of Health, the first COVID-19 case at the nursing home in Shilin District was a resident who tested positive on June 8 after feeling unwell. The case was promptly reported to the department.
The next day, the management of the nursing home arranged rapid tests for all of its residents and staff members. One resident tested positive and was later confirmed to have the disease in the hospital, Wang Su-chin, a specialist at the department, said at a press briefing Monday.
On June 12, a third COVID-19 case was confirmed at the nursing home, Wang said, and an inspection on June 14 concluded that another round of mass testing at the nursing home using rapid tests was needed.
The tests were administered on June 16, and 25 people tested positive, Wang said.
In the following days, more COVID-19 cases at the home were confirmed. To date, 47 people at the nursing home -- 31 residents and 16 staff members -- have tested positive, out of the 67 residents and 42 staff members there, and three of the residents have passed away, Wang said.
Those who have tested positive have been admitted to hospitals, while the rest were sent to be quarantined at designated hotels or hospitals by Sunday, Wang said.
The department is investigating whether or not the nursing home attempted to cover up a COVID-19 cluster. It suspects that some residents at the home had fevers June 8-12, but that the nursing home did not report the cases nor help them get medical attention, Wang said.
A representative of the nursing home's owner who has been helping deal with the outbreak denied, however, that there was a cover-up.
After the first COVID-19 case at the nursing home was confirmed on June 8, the city's department of health, the police, and district health centers called the nursing home daily for updates, so it would have been impossible to hide anything, the representative told CNA by phone Monday.
The representative blamed the city health department for its "slow" and "chaotic" handling of the situation, saying that it should have conducted mass testing on all residents and staff and required them to be quarantined after the first confirmed case emerged.
Instead, the department asked the nursing home to take the residents, some of whom are bedridden, to get tested at rapid test stations, and told them to try to keep the residents apart based on their condition, the representative said.
This is why the owner of the nursing home spent NT$100,000 (US$3,580) to have a hospital help conduct rapid tests at the nursing home itself, the representative said.
It was not until Sunday that the department finished its arrangement of people to be admitted to hospitals or go into quarantine, the representative said.
In response, Deputy Taipei Mayor Huang Shan-shan said Monday that the city was following the Ministry of Health and Welfare's guidelines on COVID-19 cases in nursing homes.
The guidelines state that if patients were infected outside of the home, authorities should help the home triage their residents and keep them apart while also designating "pods" within the home so that staff members take care of fixed groups of residents.
Only after more cases were reported did the city decide to step in, and the health department wasted no time in helping the nursing home make the necessary arrangements, Huang said.
The department has also explained the situation in full to family members of the residents, and none of them have expressed dissatisfaction, she said.
Huang has said previously that the first COVID-19 patient at the nursing home was infected while receiving dialysis.