Wed, Aug 30, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Medical staff rules questioned

INSUFFICIENT CARE Civic groups slammed the health department for dropping the regulations on the minimum number of medical professionals a hospital should hire

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Health Reform Foundation and nine civil rights groups yesterday urged the Department of Health to present research showing that proposed amendments to hospital staffing standards were designed to ensure patient safety.

If the department is unable to meet this demand within a short period of time, it should present a timetable for when it would be able to present the research, the foundation's chief executive officer, Liu Mei-chun (劉梅君), said at a press conference in Taipei.

According to Chen Ya-ching (陳雅晶), spokeswoman for the foundation, there are no standards regulating the minimum number of medical professionals a hospital should hire after staff reviews were dropped in the hospital evaluation system last year.

Chang Li-yun (張笠雲), chairwoman of the foundation, said that human resources were essential and fundamental to maintaining patient care.

The foundation presented overseas research statistics showing that having more medical staff may help reduce urinary-tract infection by 25 percent, upper intestinal and stomach hemorrhage by 17 percent, in-hospital pneumonia infection by 17 percent and heart failure by 13 percent.

Taiwan, however, has no corresponding research demonstrating that the local hospital evaluation system helps reduce health risks in hospitals.

Shu Ching-hsien (舒靜嫻), deputy executive officer of the Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation, a support group for burn victims, said hospitals are usually short of nurses or therapists to take care of burn patients.

She added that hospitals usually do not give weight to burn centers because they are not profitable centers.

"If we lower the standards of hospital staffing, can hospitals still cater to patients' needs? We doubt it," Shu said.

Consumers' Foundation deputy secretary-general Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄) said up to 80 percent of the medical disputes that the foundation dealt with between 2002 and last year were related to a shortage of medical personnel in hospitals.

The shortage of medical professionals was a violation of international medical human rights protocols, said Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary general Dana Wu (吳佳臻).

Wu added that the protocols seek to guarantee the patient's right to know and access to medical information, as well as participating in the decision-making process related to his or her personal health.

At the health department, Bureau of Medical Affairs chief director Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) admitted that the needs of disadvantaged groups might not be taken cared of if there were a cutback in medical staff.

Hsueh added that although there was no explicit requirement for staff numbers listed in the evaluation system, hospitals would still be reviewed based on how they perform in this area.

Hsueh said the department would review the hospital evaluation mechanism at the end of October and may consider reintroducing the minimum human resource requirement into the standards to allay public concerns.

The amendments to the standards are expected to take effect next year, he said.

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