The National Health Insurance Civic Surveillance Alliance yesterday accused a hospital in Greater Kaohsiung of shirking its responsibility by trying to pin the blame for a patient’s death on an intern.
The alliance also urged the government to conduct a thorough review of all teaching hospitals to investigate the possible illegal exploitation of interns.
A 45-year old woman surnamed Wu (吳) died last month at Yuans General Hospital after complaining of pain for hours after a surgery, media reports said.
The woman’s mother said she called the nursing station nine times for help, but no one came until after her daughter had passed away.
Neither the attending physician nor the intern who were said to be on duty that night showed up, the mother said.
The intern allegedly prescribed medicine and instructed the nurses over the telephone, while the attending physician could not be reached.
Reports, which the hospital confirmed, said the intern had completed her medical education in Poland. That quickly became the focus of public attention, as it follows an incident a couple of years ago when several Taiwanese medical students questioned the government practice of allowing foreigners who hold Polish medical degrees to take Taiwanese licensure examinations with little or no internship experience.
The alliance said that shifting the focus to the Polish medical education that the intern received was irresponsible. It added that the problem lies with the abuse of interns by hospitals and the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s failure to supervise the system.
“It doesn’t matter whether the intern was educated in Poland, at Harvard or National Taiwan University. According to the law, interns, who are students without a doctor’s license, simply cannot diagnose and treat patients, or prescribe medicine without the supervision of a resident or attending physician,” alliance spokeswoman Eva Teng (滕西華) said.
“Yuans [General Hospital] just received a hospital evaluation of ‘excellent’ last year. There are 156 teaching hospitals, certified by the ministry, in the country, with thousands of interns. However, the authorities have been negligent in monitoring how hospitals train the students or whether the interns have become overworked, cheap labor,” she added.
Alliance convener Huang Shu-ying (黃淑英) called the failure to protect patients’ safety another form of medical violence.
Wang Tsung-hsi (王宗曦), deputy director of the ministry’s Department of Medical Affairs, said that the ministry was planning to initiate non-routine supervisory visits to inspect the hospital’s administrative and educational operations.
“It would be downgraded or stripped of its teaching hospital accreditation if we find that the hospital fails to meet qualifications,” Wang said.