Mon, Jun 04, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Southbound medical plan a chance not to be wasted

By Kimyung Keng 何景榮

The Ministry of Health and Welfare on Friday last week announced that the government is putting together a national team of medical professionals from National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) Hospital, Taipei Veterans General Hospital and three other medical centers, and would assign its members to six countries covered by the New Southbound Policy.

Before the end of this year, a Taiwanese medical center is to be established in each of these countries.

The policy focuses on mutual medical benefits as it moves in to neighboring countries, in sharp contrast to China’s predatory Belt and Road Initiative, which takes jobs from local residents. President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) proposal to use a national team to push the policy forward corresponds with this focus.

Attention should be paid to whether the medical centers are in the best possible location and make the best use of the Taiwanese medical staff.

NCKU is widely recognized for its prestigious Center for Vietnamese Studies, chaired by professor Wi-Vun Taiffalo Chiung (蔣為文) from the Department of Taiwanese Literature, who is well-versed in Vietnamese. Although the center has established close ties with two top Vietnamese universities — Vietnam National University in Hanoi and Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City — the NCKU hospital staff in the national medical team was not asked to establish the medical center in Vietnam.

This raises questions about the extent of resource integration between higher education and medical institutions, and whether the government would allow pro-Taiwan academics rather than pro-China academics in the six countries to assist Taiwan’s southbound medical advancement.

Students and doctors from the National Defense Medical Center (NDMC) and Tri-Service General Hospital are also not included in the national medical team. Students and doctors in the military medical education system holding military status are not legally allowed to travel to China, but these restrictions do not apply to the countries covered by the policy.

The excessively pro-China foreign policy of former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration made it impossible for outstanding talent from the military medical system to represent Taiwan abroad.

Having lectured and delivered speeches at the NDMC many times, I am deeply impressed by the devotion and enthusiasm that members of its volunteer group Rumahku — meaning “my home” in Indonesian — have for the cultures of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries and their willingness to represent Taiwan abroad.

If military medical students familiar with the languages and cultures of Southeast Asian countries were allowed to complete their internships in the medical centers to be established under the policy, they would be able to represent Taiwan abroad and fulfill their responsibility of defending the nation, while at the same time dispelling the groundless allegations that the government is paying little attention to soldiers and undervalues the military.

Hopefully the ministry and other government authorities will increase their integration efforts so that personnel from both higher education and military institutions can be a part of this major national policy.

The government must not make it impossible for the experts, academics and students who are willing to serve the nation to participate in the New Southbound Policy.

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