Thu, Apr 12, 2012 - Page 2 News List

DOH tries to fix shortage

PLUGGING THE GAP:Officials are allowing hospitals to hire more interns, but admitted that this is a short-term solution and that a long-term plan is still required

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

In bid to address a shortage of medical personnel at hospitals, the Department of Health (DOH) said it has recently amended a regulation to put medical school graduates who have not passed their examinations into hospitals as four-year intern/assistant nurses.

Teng Su-wen (鄧素文), director of the department’s Bureau of Nursing and Health Services Development, said on Tuesday that the Medical Care Personnel Act (護理人員法) has been amended, extending allotted intern time to medical school graduates, with each hospital able to recruit a fifth of its total personnel in interns, who are to be instructed by qualified medical personnel.

However, Teng said that it was only a short-term solution, adding that long-term plans were being considered to maintain the quality of medical care in the nation’s hospitals.

Meanwhile, the department said it has also amended the Establishment Standards for Medical Institutions (醫療機構設置標準) to raise the total number of medical personnel by 33 percent. The amendment is expected to be implemented on Jan. 1 next year.

The moves came in the wake of protests concerning working conditions in hospitals.

The National Union of Nurses’ Association says nurses are required to handle too many -document-related processes and that roughly 20 percent of non-care jobs are also handled by nurses, working overtime without pay, with less than 30 percent of students passing the national nursing examinations.

The association called for hospitals to increase the number of interns and assistant nurses to alleviate the pressure on qualified nurses, while also suggesting cutting back on the number of beds in hospitals.

Lu Mei-hsiu (盧美秀), head of the association, said medical personnel have a tough job and with potential nurses being lured by airlines, the tourism industry and insurance companies, the starting salary for nurses should be NT$36,000.

Teng said less than 30 percent of those taking the Nurses’ Normal Qualification Examinations pass — out of the 14,000 medical school graduates, only 10,000 take the examination, with only 3,000 passing, leaving 7,000 with medical knowledge but no certificate.

The average annual resignation rate for nurses stands at between 15 percent and 20 percent, Teng said.

On the issue of personnel shortages and reducing the number of beds, Luo Yong-da (羅永達), Taiwan Community Hospital Association chairperson and Ching Chyuan Hospital superintendent, said that despite the Bureau of National Health Insurance allotting NT$1 billion (US$33.8 million) per year to subsidies for medical personnel and increasing it to NT$2 billion next year, hospitals receive only NT$16,700 per person.

“Some hospitals have already cut the number of beds in intensive care units from 12 to six and others have cut back the number of beds allocated to postnatal care,” Luo said.

Teng said the department would convene a closed-door seminar next month to discuss the education, examination and employment of medical personnel, supply and demand of personnel and the overall environment for medical professionals.

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