Wed, Nov 11, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Healthcare needs reform: legislators

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Lawmakers yesterday called for amendments to protect medical personnel from violence and unreasonable lawsuits, while two former ministers of health urged for improvements to be made to the National Health Insurance (NHI) system to ensure a high-quality healthcare environment.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan that he and more than a dozen other lawmakers have proposed amendments to the Medical Affairs Law (醫事法) to shield medical personnel from frequent unreasonable lawsuits.

The lawmakers proposed that medical personnel only face criminal charges in cases that involve deliberate abnormal behavior or aggravated negligence — including absence from their duty stations and acts that deviate from standard practice.

“When drunk drivers who cause accidents only face fines of millions of New Taiwan dollars, but doctors who fail to save lives face lawsuits from the families of deceased patients asking for tens of millions of dollars in compensation, who would dare become a doctor to save lives, especially in specialties that have more medical disputes?” Ting said.

The specialties with the most disputes — including pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology — are the departments that are facing a shortage of doctors, he said, adding that to avoid such disputes, many doctors tend to lean toward more conservative treatments, which cause unnecessary medical expenses.

The group of lawmakers has also proposed amendments to the Criminal Code to allow public prosecution and more severe penalties for violence committed against medical personnel, Ting said.

In related news, former department of health minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) said that as the safety reserve for the NHI system is currently above the regulated standard, the excess funds should be put toward directly improving the nation’s “blood and sweat” medical care environment.

“Money should be spent on the sharp edge of the knife,” Yang said, adding that a recently announced raise from NT$5,000 to NT$20,000 to the minimum threshold to impose an NHI supplementary premium was only to please investors and neglected the needs of medical personnel and low-income households.

“The primary goal of the NHI system should be to protect the health of patients, ensure the quality of medical care provided and guarantee medical personnel the rights and interests they deserve,” Yaung’s predecessor, Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川), added.

“If you want the NHI system to provide cheap and plentiful services, then patients are going to receive low-quality healthcare, while healthcare personnel will continue to be exploited by their employers,” he said.

Excess funds from the NHI reserve should be earmarked to help low-income families, remote area healthcare, recruitment of medical personnel who can provide reasonable treatment, disease prevention measures and to ensure that good local pharmaceutical companies are not put out of business by hospitals constantly asking for lower prices, Yeh said.

“What kind of crazy policy is using the NHI to save the stock market?” Yeh asked.

“To put it strongly, I condemn Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) for the adjustment to the NHI supplementary premium,” Yang said.

The Executive Yuan was bullying the NHI committee, which represents the public, the former minister added.

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