Demonstrators rallied outside the Department of Health yesterday to protest the lack of adequate care for people with leprosy and their need to compete with other patients for medical resources.
People with leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease, are entitled to special medical resources under the Rights Protection and Compensation for Hansen’s Disease Patients Act (漢生病病患人權保障及補償條例), said a student surnamed Tsai (蔡), a member of the Losheng Youth Alliance.
Based on the act, the department should establish a separate fund for people with leprosy, he said. At present, they are housed either at Losheng (“Happy Life”) Sanatorium or the nearby Huei Long Hospital, which provides medical services for both people with leprosy and people with other ailments.
Losheng Sanatorium Self-Help Organization chairwoman Chang Yun-ming (張雲明) said the sanatorium has only 10 caregivers to look after about 200 patients — showing the inadequacy of the facility’s nursing resources.
Tsai said that Wang Chiang-ho, a leprosy patient at Huei Long Hospital, committed suicide in July 2010 because he could not afford to pay his steep medical bills.
Heavy security surrounded the protest at the health department, with about 20 police officers holding shields to maintain order at the site.
Teng Su-wen (鄧素文), director of the department’s Bureau of Nursing and Health Services Development, met with the protesters and promised to discuss the issues they raised with other officials.
Acknowledging the lack of resources, the department said in a press statement that it would continue to increase the subsidy for leprosy patients each year to ensure quality medical care.
The department said an increased budget would be used to hire more caregivers for aging leprosy sufferers and to set up 24-hour medical care services.
The department said that the 211 patients registered at Losheng Sanitorium last year are separated into four groups, based on the severity of their condition. Some need constant nursing supervision, but others need less.
Forty patients with less severe symptoms share one to three nurses, while 28 more serious cases share eight to 10 medical staff, it said.
The supervisor of Losheng Sanatorium could not be reached for comment at press time.