Thu, Aug 06, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Groups suspend protests against health department

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Two associations yesterday suspended plans for three demonstrations against the Department of Health in the hope that incoming Department of Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良), who is expected to assume the post today, will listen to their grievances.

“Former minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) has declined requests for negotiations several times. We decided to give it another shot and hope that the new minister will listen to us,” said Cheng Hsin (程馨), secretary-general of the group International Research-Based Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.

Taiwan Hospital Association chairman Wu Der-lang (吳德朗) said the protests would embarrass the new minister as they were scheduled for only a few days after Yaung takes up the position. Instead, the group would wait for Yaung’s response.

“Let’s just hold this thought and hear what the new minister has to say,” Wu said.

Physicians, nurses and local drug manufacturers had planned to stage three protests on Friday, Wednesday and Thursday over the health department’s policies to lower the prices of some drugs and implement a patient classification system called the diagnosis-related group system.

The system will classify illnesses into 967 categories and be phased in over the next six years.

Patients within each category will be expected to use the same level of hospital resources and hospitals will be compensated fixed amounts according to the system.

Furthermore, the policy means the National Health Insurance Bureau would only cover the expenses of a patient’s stay in hospital based on one category, even if the patient has more than one condition.

Doctors and nurses say the policy would jeopardize patients’ rights because hospitals might try to wrap up treatment too early.

Meanwhile, drug manufacturers say lowering drug prices will slow the development of new drugs, while the health department says the affected drugs will be those whose patents have expired.

In response, Yaung said he would consider the criticism.

“Doctors, nurses and drug manufacturers are the health department’s ‘clients.’ It will be my task to make sure communication with our clients is good,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA

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