Fri, Sep 08, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Limit the work hours of physicians

By Chien Jien-wen 錢建文

Not only are limits warranted but, due to the nature of the medical industry, these limits must be more stringent than those for other industries and at the very least cannot be more relaxed than the standards stipulated in the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法).

Taiwan already trails other nations by 30 years in terms of legislation that limits the working hours of medical personnel. This is why President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) should fulfill her campaign promises and include doctors in the labor act.

We would be lucky to see Tsai go in this direction.

Unfortunately, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who is drawing up a white paper, has already signaled to the media that this campaign promise is dead in the water.

How can Taiwanese needing medical treatment not be angry?

Twenty-eight years ago, an angry father in the US pushed for legislation limiting doctors’ work hours and, in so doing, saved countless lives.

Seven years ago, in response to an irate public, the transportation ministry introduced legislation restricting work hours for long-distance bus drivers, and there has not been a major fatal accident on the freeway by a transport company since.

So why is it that the government is dragging its feet on introducing reform to the medical profession?

The reason is likely that patients in Taiwan, when medical treatment goes wrong, have no way of going after the big fish, but have to satisfy themselves instead with individual minnows.

When an incident occurs, medical institutions always shirk the responsibility and instead simply offer up their individual doctors.

The government is willing to face the situation to avoid the unsustainable situation of hospitals relying on less severe cases to reduce their potential liabilities and keep themselves afloat.

Citing the difficulties in running hospitals as one of the reasons for opposing the government from including physicians in the labor act, many medical professionals, who should be advocating for solutions to social issues, are siding with the hospital operators, whose main objective is turning a profit.

When those who should represent a social conscience abdicate their responsibilities, the rest of us have to rely on ourselves.

This nation needs angry people.

When you or a family member receives inadequate medical treatment, have a judge request that physician’s shift schedule for the previous year. Look into whether the hospital operator is legally liable, due to not keeping the staff from working too many hours.

You should also seek compensation from the present government, which continues to put off including doctors in the Labor Standards Act — let it go down in history how certain politicians have reneged on their campaign promises.

Of course, the best method would be to completely replace government officials who have given up on fulfilling their promises and to instead have more competent ones implement Tsai’s campaign promises.

Chien Jien-wen is a pediatrician and a board member of the Changhua Medical Alliance for Public Affairs.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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