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Health department proposes a set of solutions to shortage of ER doctors

TAIPEI -- The Department of Health proposed a set of solutions to the increasing shortage of emergency room (ER) doctors Saturday, amid accusations that they are underpaid and overworked. The solutions include a cash reward of NT$120,000 (US$4,008) per year for physicians who have completed ER training, enhancement of safe work environments and plans to encourage transfer of patients from ER to other units, according to a statement released by the department.

Relevant authorities will push for bills that support appropriate punishment in cases of medical negligence, it added. Some doctors have previously argued that heavy punishments meted out in medical disputes have stopped them from performing operations.

The department will also consider charging patients higher prices for emergency services to prevent abuse of medical resources, it said.

The statement came after a study found that 10 percent of Taiwanese ER doctors leave their profession a decade into practice.

“The situation, if unattended, will cause a serious lack of talent in the future,” said Lee Yi-kung, chief of the emergency department at Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital in Chiayi's Dalin Township.

He contributed the problem to a flawed payment system under the current national insurance system, a high stress work environment and different career plans.

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