September 16, 2008
China’s “Tainted Milk” Babies Denied Free Care Despite Decree – Paper
Text of report by Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post website on 16 September
[Report by Klaudia Lee: "Free Care Denied Babies Despite Decree"; headline as provided by source]
Mainland hospitals have yet to implement a State Council order to provide free treatment to the babies who fell ill after drinking contaminated infant formula produced by Sanlu, a group of mainland lawyers offering free advice to victims said yesterday.
In calling for swift implementation of the order, the group also revealed that some early cases were not reported by local health authorities. If they had been reported, it might have raised the alarm earlier.
"We've received some cases in which babies developed kidney stones in Foshan, Guangxi's Wuzhou and Shunyi (in Beijing ) as early as March, but at the time they did not get reported, so nobody tried to find out the causes for them," said Li Fangping, the coordinator of the lawyers' group.
Mr Li pointed out that several hospitals contacted by affected families had said that they had "not received the notice" about free medication despite the State Council's decision on Friday.
The incident has placed a huge burden on hospitals, according to the group's first work report published yesterday.
For example, more than 160 people queued at the renal department of Zhengzhou children's hospital within two hours of its opening yesterday, and it was expected to handle over 300 people in one day, the report quoted hospital staff as saying.
Within three days of the group's establishment on Friday, its member lawyers received more than 400 calls from affected parents, mostly about ways to seek treatment and compensation.
In one of the calls that lawyer Zheng Jineng received, the report said, the parents complained that their child had died after he developed kidney stones from consuming Sanlu infant formula.
But because most consumers did not keep their receipts or vouchers, they were liable to encounter difficulties when seeking compensation.
"So parents should keep their milk cans," Mr Li said.
As many of the affected children came from poor families in rural areas, the group called on local authorities to step up publicity about the scandal and provide free medical checks and treatment for children who were fed the infant formula.
It also called on hospitals to avoid asking parents to pay fees up front, as some poor families would not be able to collect enough money.
The number of lawyers joining in to raise public awareness and help victims to seek compensation had risen from 20 to 31, the group said.
Originally published by South China Morning Post website, Hong Kong, in English 16 Sep 08.
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