The death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) has raised doubts about the preparedness and management of the military’s medical service for both daily health care and emergencies.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Su Ching-chuan (蘇清泉), who is also director-general of the Taiwan Medical Association, told a symposium in Taipei on reform in the military medical system that Hung’s case showed the Ministry of National Defense’s Medical Affairs Bureau was guilty of mismanagement.
Guards were not adequately trained for medical issues, there was a lack of emergency equipment in the detention center and ambulances on call did not use their sirens, he said. Information from former medical officials showed there were more problems with the system, Su said.
“Bureau Director-General Chang Deh-ming (張德明) said that the doctor-patient ratio in the military, at 1:504, is similar to the national ratio of 1:594 and so could be considered reasonable,” he said. “However, medical officers, military nurses and medical corpsmen are often sent on errands unrelated to their profession. Servicemen released for medical reasons asked to change to civilian clothes before seeking medical treatment to avoid attention and mass infections are not reported for fear of punishment.”
Association secretary-general Tsai Ming-chung (蔡明忠) said the emergency procedures followed by the medical officer, surnamed Lu (呂), who attended Hung — which require a patient to be referred to hospital immediately if the site is poorly equipped — were appropriate.
Chiang Shih-chung (蔣世中), the association’s vice secretary-general, agreed and said the military was being intentionally misleading. Whether oxygen was administered to Hung in the ambulance or the ambulance’s siren was used were clues in resolving Hung’s case, Chiang said.
“The cause of Hung’s death has never been made clear. Was heat stroke and, if so, what caused the heat stroke,” Chiang said.
“We have to make sure that military physicians, who not permitted to join unions and thereby not protected, are guaranteed just and fair treatment,” he added.
Su also voiced concern about the impact the move toward all all-volunteer military will have on the number of doctors in the military.
He said that of the 388 medical officers currently serving in the military (not including those in military hospitals), 236 were serving their mandatory military service.
“As a system of voluntary military service is to be implemented in 2015, a shortage of medical personnel is expected. The military needs to come up with countermeasures to solve this problem,” Su said.
This story has been amended since it was first published.