Following President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) meeting with representatives of nursing associations on Friday, the Taiwan Nurses Union (TNU) issued a statement reiterating its demands on nurse-to-patient ratios and accusing the government of siding with administrators.
Friday’s meeting was to discuss nursing policies, such as nursing workforce management, work hours, work safety, reasonable salaries and coordination between nursing education and skill application, “but the union’s constant calling on the government to fulfill Ma’s promise of a nurse-patient ratio of 1:7 made during his presidential election campaign has been falling on deaf ears, showing the government lacks sincerity in its promise to make improvements,” the union said.
The union criticized the composition of the representatives, questioning the presence of Taiwan Regional Hospital Association director-general Su Ching-chuan (蘇清泉), who is also a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmaker.
“We strongly question the reason why Su took part in the meeting. It is discrimination and an insult to the autonomy and professionalism of nurses to allow hospital administrators to have the whip hand in the discussion of nursing labor issues,” the nursing group said. “This shows the Presidential Office has little knowledge of the profession and is ignorant of the fact that hospital corporations are the exploiters in the field.”
The union said the Department of Health’s resolution on the nurse-to-patient ratio succumbed to pressure from businesses.
“The current nurse-to-patient ratio is as high as 1:20. Low nurse staffing levels can result in poor patient outcomes. As newly evolved diseases, such as H7N9 avian influenza, burst onto the scene one after another, the government’s inaction in improving working conditions in hospitals can lead to loopholes in disease control and prevention,” the union said.
While some hospital administrators have started to call for the importation of foreign nursing labor and the lowering the license threshold under the pretext of labor shortages, the union said that labor shortages were the least of the sector’s concerns.
“The participation rate of registered nurses is only 56 percent,” it said, meaning there is a sufficient supply of registered nurses, “but many of whom decided to drop out due to poor working conditions.”
The TNU urged the public to supervise the government’s revisions of the relevant laws and regulations and asked Ma to realize labor justice in the nursing profession, “for the protection of the health and safety of the general public.”