Hospital head calls for ‘total revamp’ of Taiwan medical system

TROUBLE IN PARADISE? Lin is calling for an overhaul of Taiwan's universal system of medical care (est. 1995), considered by many to be the best in the world.
By Tsuei Shiao-hu. political editor / The Wild East

24 June, 2012, TAIPEI

Taipei Veterans’ General Hospital Director Lin Fang-yu (林芳郁) joined in the chorus of medical leaders sounding the horn for federal intervention Sunday, claiming the country’s entire medical institution has five years before it collapses.

Lin, who is director of Taipei Veterans’ General Hospital (榮民總醫院) and also a CMA board chair, expressed in an interview after the symposium that it is common knowledge that the five major medicare departments of internal, external, pediatric, emergency treatment and gynecology are stretched to the limit.

The medicare system currently takes up less than 6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“Medical professionals struggle in conditions similar to what you would expect in cheap labor or foreign work. So they’re being forced to leave the profession for other options,” Lin said in an interview after the 2012 International Symposium of Medical Education (101年度會員大會暨聯合學術研討會) in Taipei.

The symposium was launched by Taipei’s Chinese Medical Association (CMA, 中華醫學會) with an agenda aimed at internal and external medical departments along with dentistry, education in the medical humanities and discussions focusing on the use of integrated Chinese and Western medicine.

Lin complained that due to the failings of the current medicare system, branches such as intensive care and cancer treatment are also running short on manpower.

Although the price of health insurance is fixed, the National Health Insurance Bureau (健保局) has already tried to subsidize its fixed low premiums by making it up in other areas. Along with turning to related fees, Lin said the the medicare system has begun to cannibalize itself in order to address the dearth of resources.

“This isn’t an earnest way of handling the problem. They are just acting at their own discretion,” Lin said, indicating that the situation calls for drastic federal intervention.

Lin called on the National Health Insurance Bureau to draft a realistic budget proposal that would meet their needs, saying that “effective medical treatment relies heavily on teamwork, and raising fees the way they have been doing merely subsidizes one department by taking funds out of another.”

The hospital director delivered his prognosis: “The whole system needs a new look over, we all need to discuss how to establish a properly functioning medical institution, while there’s still time.” But he warned that if the medicare system does not receive a complete and immediate overhaul “it will collapse within the next five-to-ten years.”

Lin pointed out that the National Health Insurance Bureau is incapable of bearing the whole burden alone, and that “social welfare should present its own budget. For instance, they can pick up the bill for victims of rare diseases, car accidents from business insurance.”

“We need to classify the national health insurance scheme clearly as falling under the social security scheme, or public welfare,” emphasized Lin.

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