More than 77 percent of employers or managers would reconsider an employee for a job if they found that they have ankylosing spondylitis (AS) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a recent survey has found.
Meanwhile, patient groups called for more government support for early medical intervention to reduce social costs.
The survey conducted by a human resource agency showed that, while prevalence among employers or executives is 19.4 percent and 15 percent for AS and RA respectively, 73 percent of employers or managers said they would reconsider the qualification of a worker with AS or RA for the job, and a further 4.3 percent said they would be unwilling to continue the employment.
A forum in Taipei on Thursday discussed how musculoskeletal disorders, of which AS and RA are the two most commonly seen diseases, have taken a toll on the country’s already dwindling labor force.
The forum showed that AS and RA patients are likely to be subject to job losses, while most patients believe that early intervention can keep the diseases under control.
RA Aid Group secretary-general Chang Ling-yuan (張玲瑗) said 80 percent of RA disease onsets occur between the ages of 30 and 50, and 30 percent of patients affected would lose their jobs 10 years from the onset of the disease.
Chang said that 47.3 percent of RA patients with adequate qualifications are not employed.
AS Caring Society chairman Lin Fu-erh (林孚爾) said that AS is also mostly seen among men of prime working age, and most of affected patients believe that early treatment can effectively control the illness.
Professionals underscored prevention and effective resource allocation as the best way to expand sufferers’ social participation and save medical resources.
Liu Mei-chun (劉梅君), a professor at National Chengchi University’s Institute for Labor Research, advised the government to replace the healthcare system perspective to health issues with a “societal perspective.”
While the former puts an emphasis on the short-term cost-effect brought by the inflow of budget money, the latter focuses on how different ways of medical care distribution and intervention can affect patients’ work performance and the economy, Liu said.
Taiwan Rheumatology Association secretary-general Wu Chien-sheng (吳建陞) agreed, saying this is the key to better health, lower costs and higher employment.