September 21, 2008

China’s Li Keqiang Visits Victims of Tainted Baby Formula Case in Hebei

Text of report by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

[Report by reporter Che Yuming: "When Inspecting Hospitals and Visiting the Homes of Sickened Children and Shopping Malls in Hebei Province, Li Keqiang Stresses the Importance of Treating and Curing Sickened Babies and Infants in the Tainted Milk Powder Case with All- out Efforts and Painstaking Care so that the People's Health and Basic Interests May Be Earnestly Safeguarded"]

Shijiazhuang, 20 Sep (Xinhua) - Li Keqiang, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] and vice-premier of the State Council, made a special trip to Dingxing County in Hebei Province on 20 September during which he went straight to the hospitals, called on the families of children sickened [after being fed Sanlu baby and infant milk powder], and visited various shopping malls. On behalf of the CCP Central Committee and the State Council, Li visited the victims of the "Sanlu infant milk powder incident" and also inspected the medical treatment being given to the sickened children as well as the situation of the dairy product market. He said emphatically: All those concerned must conscientiously put into effect the deployment made by the CCP Central Committee and State Council and, acting in the spirit of holding themselves highly responsible to the people, they must wholeheartedly, painstakingly, and properly attend to their work of treating the sickened babies and infants to make sure that they will be restored to health in the shortest time possible. While inspecting all dairy products and comprehensively putting the dairy product trade in good order, they must also make sure that there will be an adequate supply of up-to- standard dairy products on the market and that prices will remain stable and consumers' demand will be met.

Li left Beijing and hastened to Dingxing County Hospital in Hebei Province on the afternoon of 20 September. After stepping into the sick babies' and infants' ward, he went up to each bed and asked the parents and medical personnel, one by one, about the condition of each child - the length of each child's illness, the main symptoms, treatment, and recuperation. After learning that most of the sick children were getting better, Li's sombre expression lightened a little. He said emphatically: The hospital [personnel] should do what they can to treat and cure the sick children and restore them to health as soon as possible. Afterward, he went into the B-mode ultrasound diagnosis room to find out about the state of support for such medical equipment as the B-mode ultrasound machine. He called for increased allocation of medical equipment to hospitals [concerned] and for the provision of financial support to make available funds for purchasing equipment essential in treating and curing the sick children. In the lobby of the outpatient department, Li greeted the people who had come to register to see the doctor and listened carefully to an account of the screening and diagnosis work as well as medical-treatment-related-work carried out by the hospital personnel. On hearing that there had lately been an increase in the clinical volume and that the medical personnel had been overburdened with work, he expressed his sincerest gratitude towards the medical personnel and urged them to continue to stand fast at their posts and to vigilantly and properly attend to their patient-receiving, medical-checking, and treatment work. Li told the person in charge of the local health department who was accompanying him: Efforts must be made to properly centralize the arrangement of the hospital's examination personnel, to organize experts to improve on related therapeutic schemes, to step up technical guidance, and to simplify the clinical consultation process and hospitalization procedure, so that the sick babies and infants may receive effective treatment in good time. With regard to the babies and infants who have developed urinary system stones after being fed milk powder containing melamine, there should be no charging of any medical fee during the diagnosis and treatment processes and there must be no delaying of treatment because of expense-related problems. Since the health-care conditions in our rural areas, particularly outlying rural areas, are relatively poor, we must organize medical personnel to go straight to the grassroots level to carry out inspection visits, to actively attend to the medical conditions of the sickened children, and amass them and have them sent to hospitals for diagnosis and treatment.

Cui Zhiqiang, who lives in Housuoying village in Dingxing County's Dingxing town, has a daughter who is a little over one year old. Not long ago, the baby girl fell ill after being fed problem milk powder but she has recovered and been discharged from hospital. Li specially went to Cui's home and, with deep concern, inquired about the process of treatment received by the child, related medical expenses, and her latest health condition. Cui said: When my child was staying in hospital, the doctors treated her illness with great care and she was well taken care of. She is now a healthy child. The doctor has told us that if the problem is detected at its early stage and the child is promptly taken to the hospital, the illness is curable. Li said: Children are the future of our country, therefore we must take good care of them and let them grow up healthily.

Womei Supermarket, situated in the county seat of Dingxing, is a relatively large local retailer of daily-use consumer products. Li went into the supermarket to find out about the supply and demand situation of dairy products. A supermarket staff informed him that the supermarket had completely stopped selling the problem milk products and those that were currently being sold were up-to- standard products, many of which were milk powders for babies and infants. Li pointed out: Dairy products that are not up to standard must all be removed from the shelves, sealed and banned from sale, and recalled. Those consumers who wish to return the problem dairy products should be fully refunded at the original price. At the same time, all enterprises concerned must strive to increase their production of up-to-standard products and guarantee the quality of their products. As for the shopping malls, they must continue to procure up-to-standard products, ensure adequate supply of these products on the market, and maintain stability of their prices.

During his visit, Li also went to Xishiqiao village in Dingxing town to inspect the situation of dairy-cattle raising and raw-milk sales. He said to the dairy farmers, "The government will help you tide over this crisis, so all of you must keep on raising your dairy cattle properly and provide the market with fresh milk that is up to standard.

While carrying out his inspections, Li said emphatically: All regions and departments concerned must conscientiously carry out the demands made by the CCP Central Committee and the State Council and attach great importance to the work of handling the incident related to [problematic] baby and infant milk powder. All those concerned must strengthen coordination and cooperation, vigorously attend to the implementation of related work, promptly and effectively handle related problems, and carry out comprehensive inspections of dairy products so as to ensure that the quality of new products is up to standard. They must reorganize, in an all-round way, the dairy trade so as to bring about a fundamental change in the quality of dairy products and the market order, and to facilitate the healthy development of the dairy trade. They must pursue a policy of providing support to our dairy farmers to ensure that their interests will not be seriously affected. With regard to identified problems related to the quality and safety of our dairy products, they must find out the causes of these problems with absolute thoroughness and make thorough investigations into the situation. They must then affix the responsibility on those directly involved according to law and handle the case with strictness and severity so that the health of the people and their basic interests may be thoroughly safeguarded.

Officials who accompanied Li on his inspection tour included Zhang Yunchuan, secretary of the CCP Hebei Provincial Committee; Hu Chunhua, acting governor of Hebei Province; and comrades in charge of departments concerned under the State Council.

Originally published by Xinhua news agency domestic service, Beijing, in Chinese 1251 20 Sep 08.

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