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Beijing hospital full up with panicked parents over tainted milk scare
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2008-09-20 13:29
"It has been almost three months. e cries every time he pees," said Ren Haitang, a 50-year-old grandmother from a rural village in Yan'an City of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

She was referring to her eight-month-old grandson who had been raised on Sanlu milk powder, the formula which was detected to contain the banned chemical melamine.

Upon her arrival in the capital early on Friday morning, she hooked up with her husband who was working in the city and the couple rushed with the boy in tow to Beijing Children's Hospital, one of the country's most prestigious childrens hospitals.

At about 11 a.m., the grandfather was given registration card "No. 1169" for sonographic scans of the baby's kidneys and a urine test. It would be a long wait as many other infant patients were ahead them.

Ren's family, including her husband, three sons, a daughter-in-law and the grandson, make their living by running an apple orchard. It earns about 20,000 yuan (2,925 U.S. dollars) to 30,000 yuan annually.

"We have spent more than 10,000 yuan before we came to Beijing," Ren said. "We can't afford more."

A mere look at the child was enough to make her tearful.

Like Ren, many parents at the hospital said they had not been aware of their children's sickness until they saw the news about the tainted Sanlu milk powder.

According to the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, 69 batches of milk products made by 22 dairy companies, including the well-known Sanlu, Yili, Mengniu and Yashili brands, had been laced with melamine.

Melamine, a chemical normally used in plastics, was mixed illegally into the milk powder to raise its protein content.

The worst tainted formula of Sanlu Group Co. has the largest market in China with its lower price, usually one-third that of imported powdered milk.

The melamine-tainted formula has caused four infant deaths and left more than 6,000 other children sick with kidney stones.

Panicked parents took their babies to hospitals though many didn't show any symptoms of kidney disease.

Tian Xiaoyan took her eight-month-old daughter to the Beijing Children's Hospital for an ultrasound. The baby was fed a milk powder sold by the southern Guangdong-based Yashili Group Co.

The Beijing woman said she had switched to imported infant formula, but was still concerned about safety. "I really hope the government can expand the checks and testing to more overseas brands of infant formula."

Not all children were so lucky to have timely checks at the hospital. Li Zhanshan, 47, had to find another facility for his nine-month-old son. The boy, who had been diagnosed with a kidney stone measuring 0.9 cm in diameter, was turned away after being told the hospital was fully booked.

The man had traveled from Tangshan City in the northern Hebei Province. He said his son was in such a serious condition that hospitals in his hometown refused to take him.

"Whatever it takes, I'll get my son hospitalized," he said while leaving, a worried look on his face.

Beijing has two children's hospitals where the patient admissions have been on the rise. The institutions had borrowed ultrasound scanners from other hospitals.

The influx of sickened children to the city has risen as the Beijing municipal government promised free exams and treatment to all who have consumed the contaminated milk.

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