Thu, Jul 28, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Protest over care cuts at Lo-Sheng

QUALITY OF LIFE:Since being forced to move into the Huilung Hospital, residents say the standard of care has gone down, with only 16 caregivers for 232 patients

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff Reporter

Residents of the Lo-Sheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium (樂生療養院), accompanied by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇), went to the legislature yesterday to protest against a reduction in the standards of care and resources they receive, as they urged the government to enforce its own regulations.

The sanatorium, a complex in Sinjhuang District (新莊), New Taipei City (新北市), was the only hospital for leprosy in the nation. It was erected in 1930 during Japanese colonial rule.

Japanese officials enforced a policy of segregating lepers from society, a policy continued by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government after it fled to Taiwan, forcing thousands of people with Hansen’s disease to move to the sanatorium for life.

By the time the segregation policy was lifted in 1954, many of Lo-Sheng’s residents had been abandoned by their families and the sanatorium was their only home.

However, beginning in 2002, the government forced residents to move to newly built Huilung Hospital and began tearing down the sanatorium’s facilities to make way for a maintenance depot for a Mass Rapid Transit line.

Losheng Self-Help Association secretary Lu Chi-hung (盧其宏) told a press conference at the Legislative Yuan that despite passage of the Act of Human Rights Protection and Compensation for Hansen’s Disease Patients (漢生病病患人權保障及補償條例) in 2008, which details the measures the government must take to care for those with leprosy, treatment and care had deteriorated.

The Department of Health allocates about NT$200 million (US$6.9 million) annually for handling Hansen’s patients, but about NT$140 million is used for personnel costs, reducing the resources for patient care, Lu said.

There are 232 residents, but only 16 caregivers, Lu said.

The residents also expressed concern over the planned abolition of the Life Remedial Office.

Lo-Sheng Lepers’ Self-Help Association honorary chairman Lee Tien-pei (李添培) said the counseling staff at the Life Remedial Office had helped Lo-Sheng residents for decades, adding that daily care was necessary because patients often suffered from palsy and cannot move.

“In the hospital, almost every time we tell the nurses that we feel ill, they tell us to wait, and sometimes we are neglected,” said Lan Tsai-yun (藍彩雲), an elderly resident.

Another resident, surnamed Tang (湯), whose arms had to be amputated because of the disease, said nurses used rusted scissors when cutting his bandages.

The residents called on the government to enforce the law and protect the rights of leprosy patients, recruit more caregivers, retain the Life Remedial Office and allow residents a say when Lo-Sheng’s constitution is amended next year.

The original temporary organizational constitution was abolished in September last year without the residents being notified, they said.

Chen Hong (陳宏), the deputy executive director of the Hospital Administration Commission, said he understood the residents’ feelings and agreed they should be able to live in dignity and get the care they need.

Chen promised that care would not be reduced after the Life Remedial Office is merged into the new Social Service Office in January.

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