Social welfare groups yesterday said the government’s Long-term Care Services Program 2.0 is failing the country’s 150,000 severely impaired people, as the Ministry of Health and Welfare conducted its first annual review of the policy.
The program replaces the former 10-year program that ended last year.
The ministry last year said that it would more than double the number of service items covered by the old plan and extend the scope of services covered to include people older than 50 with dementia.
After consulting local governments and service providers, the ministry earlier last week preliminarily identified five main complaints about the policy.
The perceived shortcomings are excessive red tape when reporting expenses and requesting subsidies, the unclear roles of different classes of long-term care stations, difficulty in finding space for facilities, the lack of an integrated data system and lack of access to expert input or consultations.
However, the ministry’s findings do not provide an accurate picture of the situation, because issues encountered by facilities under the ministry’s jurisdiction are overrepresented, Taiwan Association of Family Caregivers secretary-general Chen Ching-ning (陳景寧) said.
“The biggest problem is that Long-term Care 2.0 has not been of help to people with severe disabilities, and their family members are still quitting their jobs to become full-time caregivers,” she said. “People who have had a stroke or are paralyzed by different causes need round-the-clock care and one impaired person has a tremendous effect on the entire household.”
About 20 percent, or about 150,000, of the nation’s 760,000 people with disabilities are severely impaired, she said.
There are not enough caregivers to provide the round-the-clock care they need and the country can at most provide care to each of them for several hours a day, Chen said.
“As long as this problem is not solved, Long-term Care 2.0 is a failure,” she said.
At the same time, Chen said, the public needs to change its attitude toward long-term care.
“For instance, although there are out-call services, Taiwanese are not accustomed to opening their doors to strangers and letting them take care of family,” she said. “There is also the problem that caregivers are reassigned to different families each time they respond to a call. This does not make caregivers’ jobs easier.”
Taiwan Home Service Strategic Alliance director-general Lin Chin-li (林金立) said the ministry’s report accurately reflected conditions in long-term care.
Effective action in addressing the issues identified would ease the pressures on the long-term care industry, Lin said.
In some counties and cities, it takes a month before reported expenses are reimbursed, but in others the process could take as long as eight months, he said.
“Such long waits are killing many of us,” he said.
While the issues mentioned in the ministry’s report are technical challenges that can be solved through planning and by committing more resources, bringing adequate service to people with severe disabilities would require structural adjustments, he said.
“At the moment, the sector simply does not have the capacity to provide coverage and there are no easy solutions,” he said.
Although the industry has come a long way in addressing the shortage of caregivers, labor shortages affect the entire economy and the graying of Taiwanese society will only become more severe, Lin said.
“The government needs to tackle the problem aggressively or we will face a huge labor shortage,” he said.
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