Tue, May 16, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Nurse-to-patient ratios must be put into law: legislator

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff Reporter

Legislating for fixed minimum nurse-to-patient ratios is necessary to remedy deficiencies in the hospital review system, New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) said on Friday, proposing amendments to the Medical Care Act (醫療法) and the National Health Insurance Act (全民健康保險法).

“While the assessment system stipulates nurse-to-patient ratios, it does not have the force and standing of law,” Hung said, calling for the Medical Care Act to be amended to stipulate that the nurse-to-patient ratio should not rise to more than one to seven in academic medical centers, the highest grade of healthcare institutions.

Metropolitan hospitals would be required to maintain ratios of under one to 10, while ratios for local community hospitals would be required to be under one to 12 under the draft bill, which would also amend the National Health Insurance Act to provide for higher payments for hospitals with better ratios.

Regulatory assessment standards call for academic medical centers to maintain ratios at less than one to nine, she said.

“Assuming assessment numbers are accurate, most hospitals should be able to meet these standards,” she said, adding that academic medical centers reported an average ratio of one to 8.3 in 2015.

Giving minimum ratios statutory force was necessary to guarantee the continuity of the policy, encouraging hospitals to permanently hire additional staff, she said.

More rigorous ratios would help ameliorate widespread labor violations at hospitals, National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences professor Chiu Hui-ju (邱慧洳) said, adding that nurses are routinely forced to work illegal overtime.

“The assessment process only takes place one or two days out of the year, so there is a tendency to massage numbers to get through each round before returning to business as usual afterward,” she said, while praising the legislation for mandating a more rigorous definition of a nurse’s role, excluding interns and graduates of professional schools.

Lee Wei (李為), a nurse practitioner and spokesman for the Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labor Justice and Patient Safety, called for more rigorous inspections, saying that the accuracy of assessment figures is questionable.

Many hospitals alter shift patterns to increase the number of nurses on duty when inspectors arrive and even temporarily transfer personnel between departments, he said.

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