Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator-at-large Arthur Chen (陳宜民) yesterday called for the inclusion of physicians in the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), saying the issue of working hours could be negotiated, but the inclusion should be carried out immediately, as the act is more than about limiting working hours.
Chen, who is also a former Kaohsiung Medical University vice president, said the act is the “minimum protection of workers’ conditions” the government could offer.
“The National Health Research Institute has conducted a study that shows that long work hours and medical disputes are the two main reasons young people do not want to join the five main specialties [internal medicine; general surgery; pediatrics; obstetrics and gynecology; and emergency medicine]. With the problem of dwindling human resources starting to take its toll and the demands for inclusion getting louder, the Ministry of Health and Welfare should stop procrastinating,” Chen said at a news conference.
Chen said that the act, which caps working time at 48 hours per week for general workers, is not a law that simply regulates work hours, adding that physicians could be included in a clause that states the law is applicable to “other businesses or industries designated by the central competent authority.”
It is unreasonable that physicians are not protected by the act, despite paying premiums for labor insurance, he added.
Chen also called on the government to immediately lower resident physicians’ working hours from 88 hours to 80 hours per week, following the US model.
Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labor Justice deputy director-general Lin Ping-hung (林秉鴻), who also spoke at the news conference, said the only thing the ministry has to do is to announce that physicians are included in the act.
“There is not even the need for any legislative amendment,” Lin said.
Many physicians have collapsed on duty due to exhaustion, but all they could do was find help on their own, without the protection of the act, he added.
The ministry has determined the issue of working hours as an assessment criteria for hospitals and is closely monitoring how well the hospitals are following the guidelines, Medical Affairs Department Director Wang Tsung-hsi (王宗曦) said, adding that there would be personnel shortages by 2023 if physicians were included in the act.
Wang said that the department would propose other measures that would meet the standards that are being demanded.
Separately yesterday, a motion proposed by the New Power Party (NPP) caucus demanding the inclusion of physicians in the act, which was placed on the floor agenda and was supposed be discussed yesterday, could not be discussed, as the KMT caucus obstructed proceedings by occupying the legislative speaker’s podium.
Speaking during the occupation of the podium, NPP Legislator Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) slammed the KMT for blocking the discussion of subsequent motions, asking why the KMT would want to block the motion concerning physicians’ rights, specifically asking Arthur Chen for an answer.
Chen said that he had held a news conference yesterday morning demanding a solution before the incoming government takes office on May 20.
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