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Panic hits Taiwan hospitals

Mike Chinoy, CNN Senior Asia Correspondent

Tents have been set up outside this hospital to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.
Tents have been set up outside this hospital to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

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TAIPEI, Taiwan (CNN) -- As SARS spreads in Taiwan, the island's hospitals -- where over 90 percent of the cases have occurred -- are under increasing pressure.

Many doctors and nurses are already ill or in quarantine, and over 100 more have quit their jobs, too afraid to care for the victims.

Taiwan's authorities are furious and one newspaper compared the medical personnel to soldiers fleeing in battle.

"Doctors and nurses have a responsibility to do this work," Taiwan's anti-SARS chief Dr. Lee Ming-Liang told CNN.

"They can't just walk away without any proper excuse."

Well-informed observers say the mass resignations reflect near panic over the management of the outbreak.

Sources say many medical facilities are failing to report new infections until they are out of control.

Meanwhile, there has been more controversy in Taipei, where the administration of Mayor Ma-Ying-Jeou is reported to have ordered a three-day quarantine for anyone with a temperature of 37.5 degrees.

Medical experts say that temperature is within the normal range of many people and it is a temperature of over 38 degrees that is considered to be a sign of SARS.

And more partisan political bickering can be added to this volatile mix.

The leader of Taiwan's opposition Kuomintang party, Lien Chan, has accused President Chen Shui-bian of mismanaging the SARS epidemic.

"The chain of command was not clear, and frequently resulted in frequent chaotic confusion between and among government departments," Lien told CNN.

These developments come as Taiwan hit two grim records the highest number of confirmed SARS cases in a single day, and the highest number of deaths.

Rumors are also rife that the disease has spread to yet another hospital.

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