Healthcare and patient safety are compromised by overworked physicians, who should be protected by the Labor Standards Act (勞基法), the Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labor Justice and Patient Safety (TMAL) said yesterday.
“There is one hospital’s surgical ward where three residents were responsible for 30 shifts before two of the three resigned. As a result there is one physician left to bear the burden of the 30 shifts now, as the hospital is reluctant to hire new people,” TMAL chairman Chong Chee-Fah (張志華) said.
After an intern had died and a resident doctor had a heart attack at work, the Ministry of Health and Welfare is starting to consider bringing interns under the act, Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries (TAVOI) organizer Liu Nien-Yun (劉念雲) said.
However, a lawsuit filed against Chi Mei Hospital by Tsai Po-
chiang (蔡伯羌), a former surgical resident at the hospital who collapsed outside an operating room due to overwork, was unsuccessful at the first trial. The court ruled that the relationship between Tsai and the hospital was not of employment, and the hospital is not liable for the damage, Liu said.
“The juries believed that physicians are independent workers whose judgments are not meddled with by superiors. However, that is only true in the area of professional decisions; it does not mean that the doctors hold the whip hand when it comes to labor,” said Lin Chia-ho (林佳和), an assistant professor at National Chengchi University’s College of Law.
Lin said in other developed countries physicians were the first to be protected by labor protection laws, whereas in Taiwan, the interns were the first to be guaranteed protection.
The ministry has so far avoided the issue in order to bypass the provision of the act that puts a cap on working hours, but the negligence has turned Taiwan’s hospitals into sweatshops and jeopardized care and patient safety, the group said.