Parents praise inquiry into kindergarten medications but seek justice and assurances

Investigation of kindergarten medications is welcomed but also raises call for assurances against long-term damage to children's health

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 1:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 3:29am

Parents of children fed prescription drugs by kindergartens welcomed the government's "blanket inspection" of all nurseries, primary and middle schools on the mainland.

But they said they were more concerned about the long-term effects of the medicine and bringing those responsible to justice.

The order from the Ministry of Education and the National Health and Family Planning Commission came after kindergartens in Shaanxi and Jilin provinces were found to have fed pupils prescription drugs without their parents' knowledge or consent.

"I heard about the government inspection. But no mention was made of the progress of the investigation of the suspects or how officials will take care of the children who've had health issues after taking the pills," said a father whose 21/2-year-old son attended Fanglin Kindergarten in Jilin city for nine months. "These are the two issues we care about most and need answers."

Some parents are taking justice into their own hands.

"The government lacks public trust. What happened to our children reflects a failure of kindergarten regulations," said a mother whose five-year-old son attended Fengyun Kindergarten in Xian for two years.

"Although those who ran the kindergarten are in custody, we've hired local lawyers to help us file a lawsuit against the kindergarten for the harm they caused our children."

She is demanding that the government pay for health checks for their children and establish an insurance fund in case there are after-effects. More than 100 parents in Jilin are petitioning outside the city government offices.

The scandal came to the attention of Premier Li Keqiang , who instructed that the investigation be handled swiftly and severely to prevent similar incidents from occurring, according to a statement on the government's website.

Nursery schools are paid each day children attend and it is alleged the pills were given to ensure the pupils did not fall ill.

"The focus is to investigate whether kindergartens are illegally organising the medication of groups of infants," a notice from the government departments said.

The order requires provincial and municipal education and health departments to carry out the inspections by April 10 and submit the results five days later. Police say two kindergartens in Xian started giving children the anti-flu drug moroxydine hydrochloride over five years ago.

More than 500 parents in the city said their children had suffered headaches, body pains and itching as a result.

Four kindergartens in Jilin and one in Hubei province were found to be secretly giving children the same drug this week.

Police said last week five people in Xian, including the heads of both kindergartens, had been detained on suspicion of practising medicine illegally. Officers also seized school records.

The government notice condemned the kindergartens for seriously violating the law and "causing a severe social impact".

The statement said medication was occasionally needed by pupils at schools, but staff should follow strict guidelines .

These include consulting with health experts and getting formal approval from health and education departments above county level .

"No unit or individual can organise the medication of a group of infants and primary and middle school students without permission," the statement said.

The drugs were given to pupils in Xian twice a year before the regular flu season started in spring and autumn, authorities said.