Legislators yesterday proposed an increase in the penalty for people found guilty of offenses against hospital workers to a maximum NT$500,000 fine and five years in prison in the wake of increasing reports of violence against healthcare workers.
On Tuesday last week, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Lujhu Township (蘆竹) Mayor Wang Kui-fen (王貴芬) allegedly slapped a nurse for refusing to inform her about her father’s medical condition in an earlier telephone conversation.
Lawmakers and health authorities agreed that penalties should be raised and prosecutions against violators should be carried out by the state.
At a meeting of the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee at the Legislative Yuan yesterday, the initial proposal to have state prosecutors handle hospital assault cases was dropped due to an objection from the Ministry of Justice, which said it would require major amendments to the Criminal Code.
Legislators proposed an increase in the maximum fine to be imposed on violators of Article 24 of the Medical Care Act (醫療法) from NT$50,000 to NT$500,000 if criminal liability is found.
The act currently stipulates that law enforcement authorities shall assist in eliminating or restraining people who “use violence, coercion, intimidation or other illegal methods to disrupt the order of a medical institution or obstruct the execution of medical care practices.”
A revision was also been proposed which would require law enforcement officials to hand over alleged violators to prosecutors if they are found to be criminally liable.
Representatives of judicial agencies emphasized that the proposed amendments have the “spirit” of an act that entails state prosecution, as prosecutors would be required to take over the case once violence in healthcare facilities has been confirmed, irrespective of whether the victim decides to press charges.
In related developments, the Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday brought charges of public insult (公然侮辱罪) and assault of a 33-year-old nurse surnamed Lee (李) against Wang for allegedly slapping the nurse twice while at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Linkou (林口), New Taipei City (新北市), on Tuesday last week.
Prosecutors said Wang is well-educated and an elected official, and yet she acted with violence against the nurse when the latter rejected her request.
To avoid similar cases from happening, prosecutors recommended that the Taoyuan District Court hand down a heavy sentence.
Additional reporting by Rich Chang