The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the nation’s medical system must be bolstered to shoulder disease prevention duties ranging from border controls to aiding local communities, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said.
Chen, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center, made the remarks in an interview with the Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) on Friday.
Disease prevention efforts should not have to erode the provision of medical resources to the public, Chen said.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
A majority of Taiwan’s medical industry is in private hands and benign competition keeps the industry at peak efficiency, he said.
“However, being overly efficient might become a problem during pandemics, as the extra work — piled on an already heavy workload — lowers the original capability the industry could have offered,” Chen said.
Giving an example, Chen said the US medical system is strong and efficient, but as can be seen during the pandemic, most of it has closed down, collapsing under the weight of epidemic prevention, an influx of COVID-19 patients and other severe illnesses.
Likewise, Taiwan’s medical system is wound too tight and its focus on peak efficiency would mean that when the time comes, its peak performance would be insufficient, Chen said.
One method of resolving this issue is to boost government involvement, Chen said, adding: “We must leave room to do more, when it is necessary.”
Regarding the improvement of disease prevention institutions, Hospital and Social Welfare Organizations Administration Commission Director Wang Pi-Sheng (王必勝) said that besides sufficient funding and staff, public hospitals are in urgent need of systemic reforms.
Public hospitals are comprised of ministry-operated hospitals, military hospitals, veterans’ hospitals, university-affiliated hospitals, and county or city hospitals, but they cannot collaborate, as they operate under different hierarchies, he said.
If these could be integrated or grouped under an independent bureau-level organization, their overall efficiency would increase, Wang said.
Turning to the issue of overseas Taiwanese visiting Taiwan to use the nation’s medical resources, while a majority of COVID-19 cases having been imported from abroad, Chen said that most coronavirus patients are being treated using state funding and are not related to the National Health Insurance (NHI) program.
However, the pandemic has highlighted a problem in the NHI system, which is insufficient funding, he said.
Some have called for raising NHI premiums, but they must realize that there would be a certain amount of wastage, as the NHI uses a third-party payment system, Chen said.
For some, the waste is intentional, but for others, it is an institutional problem, he said, adding that if the premiums are raised too much, it would hurt those who have done nothing wrong.
Whether the system should be changed and what changes need to be made should be discussed, he added.
Additional reporting by Lin Hui-chin
The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) should not use the government’s disease-prevention policy as an excuse to block people’s access to the Taipei Railway Station’s main hall, the Taiwan International Workers’ Association said yesterday. The association held a protest at the station after what organizers said were about 400 people staged a sit-in on Saturday to demonstrate against the TRA’s proposal to ban sitting on the floor of the main hall. In accordance with the Central Epidemic Command Center’s disease-prevention measures, large gatherings have been banned in the hall since the end of February. After protesters yesterday expressed their grievances at the southern
SEEKING OPTIONS: A Sinyi Realty corporate realty official attributed the spike to proposed legal changes in the territory and the ongoing pro-democracy protests More Hong Kongers purchased real estate in Taiwan last year than other foreigners, Ministry of the Interior statistics showed. The ministry attributed the spike to a proposed extradition law that the Hong Kong government submitted last year, which would have allowed suspects to be sent to China and other nations, which sparked mass protests that are continuing. The rate of purchases last year by Hong Kong natural and juridical persons stood at 40 and 60 percent respectively, with building area purchased by both standing at 47.41 percent and 52.59 percent respectively, ministry data showed. Department of Land Administration statistics showed that Hong Kongers
ZERO TOLERANCE: National Police Agency Director-General Chen Ja-chin said that he ordered Kaohsiung police to investigate reports of planned voter intimidation Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokeswoman Yen Juo-fang (顏若芳) yesterday denounced the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for asking people not to vote in a recall poll against Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), while National Police Agency Director-General Chen Ja-chin (陳家欽) called on police to follow up on reports that gangsters are planning to intimidate voters. Yen said that in an effort to save Han, the KMT has mobilized all of its members, who have increasingly tried to prevent Kaohsiung residents from exercising their right to vote in the poll on Saturday next week. She called on Kaohsiung residents to have the courage
Taipei is to reopen public facilities starting on Monday next week under three conditions, and allow indoor and outdoor events with fewer than 250 and 1,000 people respectively, Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) yesterday. The three conditions are practicing social distancing measures or wearing a mask if the proper distance cannot be kept, enforcing a real-name registration system for indoor activities and prohibiting meal sharing, Huang said. All municipal facilities would resume operations under those principles, with the exception of school campuses, she said. School campuses at high-school level and below would remain closed to the public to protect student health, but