Hung Hau-yun (洪浩雲) is one of the most promising and admired chief resident surgeons at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), but his recent decision to quit his job and go into private practice as a cosmetic surgeon has caused concern about a brain drain among surgeons.
Hung, 32, is set to leave his position on July 1. Local media reports said he was the first surgeon trained by the hospital to quit as soon as he got his specialist license to go into cosmetic surgery.
In a recent interview, he said his desire for a better quality of life was the main reason for his abrupt career change.
Hung said that although he knows he could regret his decision someday, he has to quit because he is tired of the harsh working conditions.
“After working more than 100 hours a week for five years at a monthly pay that’s highly disproportionate to the workload, I’m really tired,” Hung said.
He also wrote on his Facebook page that while he still feels a sense of achievement when he sees patients recover after surgery, he is fed up with the difficult work environment and increasing medical disputes.
His Facebook post has caught the attention of almost every student at the National Taiwan University’s College of Medicine and has ignited heated discussion among young surgeons on the future of the medical profession.
Many of Hung’s mentors at the college and the hospital have tried to dissuade him from leaving. Having failed, some professors and surgeons now regard him as a dissident, media reports said.
Hospital spokeswoman Tan Ching-Ting (譚慶鼎) said everyone has his or her own life plan, and not every student, intern or resident agrees with Hung’s views.
“We respect his decision and we will carefully review his suggestions and opinions on improving hospital management and working conditions,” Tang said.
Lin Ching-yun (林靜芸), the hospital’s first female surgeon and the former head of a national plastic surgery association, said Hung’s exit signals a brain drain in the surgical profession.
Taiwan has about 44,000 licensed doctors, 12,000 of whom are cosmetic surgeons.
“I’m afraid our health insurance system will eventually drive many qualified doctors to abandon their specialized fields to seek a share of the medical cosmetic market,” Lin said.
Under the hospital’s regulations, Hung could become an attending doctor at the hospital’s Yunlin branch in southern Taiwan this summer and return in two years to the main hospital in Taipei as one of its youngest surgeons.
Lin said plastic surgery and dermatology are the core of medical cosmetology. There are about 1,700 licensed specialists in those fields, but there are more than 12,000 doctors practicing medical cosmetics, she said, adding that many have come from other fields, such as family medicine, internal medicine and ophthalmology.
“The flawed and unreasonable payment regulations under our national health insurance program has distorted our medical service system and prompted many young doctors to give up their specializations and pursue a career in the more lucrative area of cosmetic surgery,” Lin said.
She said if the government fails to pay attention to the serious brain drain in general surgery, patients will soon have a hard time finding qualified surgeons.