Mon, Oct 07, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Healthcare is Taiwan’s most useful soft power

By Lin Chii-jeng 林啟禎

After Taiwan severed diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands on Sept. 16, Kiribati, also in the Pacific region, cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan on Sept. 20.

Meanwhile, when attending a dinner banquet at the International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare hosted by the Taipei-based Joint Commission of Taiwan on Sept. 18, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took the opportunity to thank the British Medical Journal and the US Institute for Healthcare Improvement for entrusting the commission with hosting the international event in Taipei, and to welcome more than 1,300 international medical experts from 34 nations to Taiwan.

Tsai said that Taiwan’s medical strengths are well-known in the international community, which also knows how the nation is taking advantage of these strengths to help build a healthier world.

Despite China repeatedly blocking Taiwan from attending the World Health Assembly for political reasons, Beijing will not be able to obliterate the nation’s medical strengths and the contributions it makes, because it has so much to share with global medical circles in terms of its health insurance system, long-term care system and medical technology, among other things.

When attending the opening of the forum the next day, Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) gave a keynote speech, titled “The challenges and opportunities in the healthcare system in Taiwan,” to introduce how Taiwan has been overcoming challenges to build a medicare and long-term care system using a rolling adjustment mechanism.

During his speech, he referred to Bloomberg’s healthcare efficiency index released last year, in which Taiwan ranked ninth in the world in terms of medical expenses and average lifespans, higher even than the US.

CEOWorld Magazine this year ranked Taiwan’s medical system first globally.

During Chen’s speech, Don Berwick, a former administrator of the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under former US president Barack Obama’s administration, kept photographing the presentation slides with his cellphone, and was amazed that Taiwan has been able to build a long-term care system that the US has repeatedly failed to achieve.

Institute president and chief executive officer Derek Feeley also said that it has been striving to meet the WHO’s goal of improving the quality of medicare, and that goal has been fully achieved in Taiwan.

As a result, he plans to report to the WHO about the advancement of Taiwan’s medicare system when he returns home.

The collective strength and high level of the Taiwanese medical sector is a perfect example of the diplomatic “soft power” that the nation has and which nobody can take away, and medicare is considered a humanitarian and scientific issue valued by the UN.

The nations that have cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan had all received medical aid from Taiwanese hospitals, which helped them improve the quality of their medicare and the well-being of their people.

Mackay Memorial Hospital, Kaohsiung Medical University and Chi Mei Hospital, for example, had offered medical assistance to Kiribati, the Solomon Islands and El Salvador. Although medical aid can do little to address the political reality or the diplomatic frustrations that Taiwan faces, the efforts and accomplishments of its medical world should be recognized.

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