Sat, Sep 24, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Groups pan plan to drop caregiver-to-patient ratios

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Changes to evaluation standards for hospitals would harm quality by dropping mandatory “patient-to-caregiver” ratios, representatives of medical professional associations said.

Officials from 10 professional and academic medical associations gathered at the offices of the Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation yesterday to protest proposed changes to hospital performance assessments, accusing the Ministry of Health and Welfare of “foul play” for proposing “assessment simplifications” leading to “personnel cuts.”

While performance assessments should be simplified, the nation’s low patient-to-caregiver ratio should protect that requirement, foundation chairwoman Joanne Liu (劉淑瓊) said, criticizing the ministry’s plan to switch to “passive monitoring,” which would require hospitals to publish their “patient-to-caregiver” ratios, while removing the data from consideration during performance assessments.

“The ministry is basically saying that hospitals can do what they want on the matter and it will not regulate them as long as they put the data online,” Liu said, calling for better standards to prevent hospitals from “cooking the books” on personnel hours.

“Even if people went to the trouble of looking up the data, they would not be able to understand it,” she said.

The ministry performs routine performance assessments of hospitals to determine their pay tiers according to the National Health Insurance system, with institutions competing to be designated as a “medical center,” the tier which receives the highest payouts.

Relatively high patient-to-caregiver ratios were added to the assessments in 2008 following protests from labor groups and they serve as a “must pass” criteria for higher pay tier designation, regardless of the scores in other areas, Liu said.

Removing the ratio requirement would likely lead to hospitals cutting the number of pathologists, despite months-long waiting periods patients face for some treatments, Taiwan Speech Language Pathologist Union president Joyce Su (蘇心怡) said.

“This has to do with National Health Insurance pay formulas — because the formula for our type of service is relatively low, hospitals do not view it as profitable,” Su said.

Hospitals’ unwillingness to hire personnel means that young hearing therapists are unable to find work, Taiwan Speech-Language-Hearing Association vice chairman Yeh Wen-ying (葉文英) said.

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