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Hospitals accused of stiffing their doctors on subsidy payments

TAIPEI--Some hospitals are not paying their medical staff the full subsidy allocated by the government to supplement the salaries of such personnel, doctors said Saturday.

Hospitals are cutting the subsidies intended for doctors and keeping the money, said Hsieh Ching-hung, a member of the Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology, at a forum that was held to discuss the shortage of medical personnel in Taiwan's hospitals.

“This is adding hail to snow,” Hsieh said, describing the working conditions for doctors and nurses in Taiwan as harsh.

“There have been instances in which the subsidy has been used to buy sofas instead of being paid to nurses,” said Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Sue-ying, a health care reform activist.

Despite the government's efforts to retain doctors by offering them cash subsidies, “it is doubtful whether the money is going into the doctors' pockets,” Huang said.

A hospital supervisor from central Taiwan, however, said the allegations do not reflect the true picture and that the situation is more complex than it appears.

“Many hospitals are already paying doctors from their own pockets,” he said.

He said there is little support from the government or the cash-strapped National Health Insurance (NHI) that provides coverage for about 99 percent of the country's population.

Under the current system, the medical personnel subsidies are allocated to hospitals, which then redistribute the money based on a value scale, according to Tsai Shu-ling, an official with the Bureau of National Health Insurance.

Founded in 1995, the NHI promised health care for all citizens but it soon ran into debt due to an imbalance in medical spending and premiums.

Shen Fu-hsiung, a former doctor and lawmaker, called for an all-out effort to achieve reform, saying that the shortage of doctors and the NHI payment system were like “cirrhosis” of the liver.

Over 100 health officials and doctors attended the forum with the aim of finding solutions to the nationwide shortage of medical personnel in hospitals. The problem is especially serious in the fields of general medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and emergency medicine, they said.

Some of the solutions proposed included allocating more money for doctors, determining appropriate penalties for medical malpractice, establishing a relief fund for victims of medical negligence, increasing the salaries of doctors in remote areas and recruiting licensed Taiwanese doctors who are working overseas.

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