The establishment of an international medical zone for foreigners will not result in a depletion of medical resources for Taiwanese, Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) told lawmakers yesterday.
Chiu, who was briefing the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee on the plan, was questioned by legislators on the implications of revisions to the Medical Care Act (醫療法) which would provide medical care to international or foreign paying patients in a special zone.
The government hopes that the international medical zone would boost medical tourism and help retain medical talent and technology.
However, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英) said that as the international medical zone was intended to care for wealthy individuals who can afford special treatment, ordinary patients in Taiwan “would only be able to receive medical care at sub-par hospitals,” which is goes against basic medical ethics.
Chiu said that National Health Insurance (NHI) resources would not be used for medical institutions in the special zone because patients must cover all of their medical expenses themselves.
Hospitals would also be required to put 20 percent of their profit toward the NHI’s preparatory fund, which would be beneficial to the NHI system, he said.
“Establishing international medical zones is a global trend,” Chiu said.
“Asian countries such as Singapore, Japan and South Korea have been aggressive in such efforts,” he said.
If Taiwan lagged behind in establishing such zones, Chiu said he feared the country’s top medical professionals would migrate to other countries, causing Taiwan to lose its best and brightest in the medical field.
An area near Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport has been chosen as the location for the nation’s first international medical zone, which would house hospitals with 200 or more beds and four-star hotels, health authorities have said.
The department expects that within four years, the “Taoyuan International Medical Zone” could attract 45,000 patients from abroad, attracting more than NT$4 billion (US$135.2 million) in private investment and creating a production value of NT$10 billion.
The number of tourists who came to Taiwan to undergo medical checkups or receive cosmetic surgery in 2008 was about 5,000, a number that reached about 40,000 last year. A great number of those were Chinese.
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