Ma promises to protect rights of medical workers

HOSPITAL NEEDS::Amid a staffing crisis, the president pledged the government would find cash to address personnel shortages at facilities across the nation

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Mon, May 28, 2012 - Page 3

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday promised to protect the rights of medical workers and improve their working conditions, as the government prepares to launch a second--generation health insurance program next year.

“Taiwan was selected by CNN as having one of the world’s best health insurance programs along with Switzerland and the UK. However, doctors and other medical workers in Taiwan suffer from lower pay and more overtime when compared to medical workers in the US and Europe and we must address the issue,” Ma said, while attending a forum organized by the Formosa Medical Association in Greater Kaohsiung.

The Department of Health has established a task force to improve the working and employment conditions of medical workers — including their work hours, compensation for work-related injuries and insurance protection — and would include working conditions in future hospital reviews, Ma said.

“The government is also promoting a compensation mechanism to reduce medical lawsuits and seeking to limit the personal responsibility of doctors in medical disputes,” he added.

The president’s pledge to improve employment conditions for doctors and other medical workers came after a doctor from National Taiwan University Hospital decided to leave and become a plastic surgeon in the private sector, sparking concern that others might choose to follow suit because of their heavy workload.

Work conditions for medical personnel drew attention last month after a nurse named Meggie Lin uploaded an article on the lack of manpower at hospitals and the excessive workload for nurses on CNN’s iReport Web site.

Although 230,000 people hold nursing licenses in Taiwan, only about 40 percent of them are in the workforce, according to statistics compiled by health officials.

Ma said the shortage of nurses and medical personnel at hospitals was a problem many countries faced and the Department of Health has proposed various strategies to address the issue.

Under the department’s proposals, the administrative workload on nurses would be greatly reduced as a result of the reforms, while an extra NT$2 billion (US$68.1 million) would be allocated to recruit more nurses to alleviate the shortage, he said.