About 18,000 people per day seek emergency medical care in Taiwan, which has led to longer waiting times in hospital emergency rooms, greater pressure on resources and a reduced availability of doctors, National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) data show.
Agency data showed that the number of patients seeking emergency room services last year was 6.86 million, with 1.83 million going to hospitals rather than clinics.
Taichung Veterans General Hospital has the most crowded emergency room, with 9.28 percent of patients having to wait 48 hours for treatment. It is followed by National Taiwan University Hospital with 7.69 percent having to wait 48 hours, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital with 6.38 percent, Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital with 5.64 percent and Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital with 4.52 percent.
Administration executive Lin Are-ming (林阿明) said that the agency allocated NT$1 billion (US$33.1 million) earlier this year to help improve the quality of emergency medical services.
As a result, the number of people having to wait two days in Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s emergency room dropped from 7 percent to 5.6 percent, he said.
Lin said a program launched in May 2012 to encourage hospitals to move patients with minor illnesses out of emergency rooms has proved effective.
National Taiwan University Hospital spokesman Tan Ching-ting (譚慶鼎) said people rely too heavily on emergency services, which has led to longer waiting times in hospital emergency rooms.
Chu Hsien-kuang (朱顯光), a representative of the Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation, said he hopes the agency will make available its data such as hospital bed occupancy rates, bed turnover rates and quality of medical care, which could help ease clogged emergency rooms.
Lee Wui-chiang (李偉強), head of the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Department of Medical Affairs, said that earlier this year the ministry introduced a five-level rating system for emergency cases, with one being the most urgent and five the least.
Based on this, acutely ill patients should be given priority in emergency rooms, he said.
In addition, a medical expert said people with minor ailments, such as colds or mild gastroenteritis, or who need to repeat prescriptions, should be dealt with at primary healthcare centers.