A coalition of three medical workers’ unions yesterday called on the government to clarify the details of bonuses given to those contributing to epidemic prevention, and to expand the scope of the bonuses.
The coalition — made up of members of the Taipei Doctors’ Union, the Taipei City Hospital Labor Union and the Taiwan Society of Laboratory Medicine — made the comments at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.
Article 2 of the Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Recovery (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例) stipulates that individuals and institutions demonstrating achievements in preventing the spread of COVID-19 should be given compensation by the appropriate government institution, according to the nature of their work.
Photo: Tsai Ya-hua, Taipei Times
However, as it is currently worded the act does not cover some frontline medical workers, including radiologists and respiratory therapists, the coalition said.
It is also worded in a manner that allows medical institutions to be rewarded financially, but they are not obligated to distribute the money to frontline workers, it said, adding that frontline workers are putting their lives at risk every day to fight the disease.
The government should clarify how the bonuses are to be distributed, and include all frontline workers, it said.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare in a press release on March 19 specified that the bonuses applied to those caring for COVID-19 patients in negative-pressure isolation rooms, intensive care units and hospital wards established specifically for the care of COVID-19 patients.
The central government is handing out NT$10,000 bonuses to doctors and nurses working with COVID-19 patients — on a daily basis for doctors and on a per-shift basis for nurses, Taipei Doctors Union president Ellery Huang (黃致翰) said, citing the press release.
However, a shortage of staff has meant that while some nurses are working eight hours straight, others are working up to 12 hours straight, he said.
“Do they both receive the same NT$10,000 bonus?” he asked.
Some workers who need to be near patients infected with COVID-19, such as cleaners, are not even being considered for a bonus, despite their hard work and the risk to their safety, he said.
Nurses are also required to work with numerous patients, thereby increasing their risk, but are only eligible for the standard bonus, Taipei City Hospital Labor Union director Lien Jo-hsin (連若馨) said.
Also, in emergency situations when a patient’s condition deteriorates, more staff members need to tend to them, thereby spreading the risk to more people, he said.
Supplementary stipends provided through the act are also not being evenly distributed, as doctors at some larger hospitals can receive an additional NT$5,000 per application, while those at some smaller hospitals are not at all eligible for the stipends, Huang said.
Laboratories nationwide are testing up to 3,800 samples daily for COVID-19 infection, but are relying on the same number of technicians as previously, Taiwan Society of Laboratory Medicine spokesperson Tu Yun-hung (涂昀吰) said, adding that lab workers should be included in the rewards scheme.
The government must also re-examine the distribution of lab technicians to prevent labs from being overburdened, he added.
Radiologists are also being overstretched, as they need to perform work for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients in addition to their regular workload, radiologist Wu Kun-lung (吳坤隆) said, adding that some radiologists have been working 24-hour shifts.
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