More than half of the nation’s counties and cities lack the facilities to treat five major emergency medical conditions, the Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation said yesterday as it called on the government to reform the emergency medical services network to make health care resources readily available to everyone covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI).
“Although everybody pays the same health insurance rates and seems to equally benefit from healthcare resources, the truth is that people from different regions meet different fates when it comes to acute and critical medical emergencies, foundation chairwoman Liu Mei-chun (劉梅君) said.
“It’s one IC card with different fates,” she added.
According to data complied by the foundation, 12 counties and cities lack hospitals listed as specializing in emergency treatment of five severe diseases or traumas — acute stroke, acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), major trauma, high-risk pregnancy and critical illness of the newborn. Among the 12, Lienchiang, Penghu and Kinmen counties lack hospitals and critical care centers for all five emergency medical conditions, it said.
The foundation’s deputy executive Chen Fu-mei (陳芙媺) said it was not exposing the lack of facilities in these regions to extract money from the government to establish mega-hospitals capable of treating every single emergency medical condition.
“Rather, the report is hoping to highlight the problems that the Department of Health has for a long time been designing the emergency medical services network and distributing aid along the administrative boundary line and passively waiting for hospitals to apply for subsidies,” Chen said.
Emergency medical services should be provided based on the idea of a “living perimeter,” foundation executive director Joanna Liu (劉淑瓊) added.
“For example, the Changhua Christian Hospital is a well-equipped hospital capable of providing quality medical care, but it is located in northern Changhua and not necessarily within traveling distance for people from the southern part of the county,” she said.
Worrying about the poor design of the medical services network and the lack of specialized emergency centers is a luxury for the most medical resource-deprived Taitung County, said Daren Township (達仁) Public Health Center head Hsu Chao-pin (徐超斌), who, until having a stroke, used to work 400 hours a month in order to serve the medical needs of Taitung County residents, most of whom are Aboriginal people.
There are only seven physicians for approximately 18,000 people in four townships in the mountainous areas along the east coast of Taitung County, Hsu said.
Taitung residents belong ti the same health insurance system as every other Taiwanese citizen, he said.
“So why is it that they are not benefiting from the same medical care as everybody else? What happened to the basic fairness and justice touted by the NHI?”