Group pushes labor protection for doctors
CNATAIPEI -- A local group advocating the rights of medical staff called Sunday for labor law protection to be extended to doctors, saying that otherwise the quality of medical services will be impacted.
September 16, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
The government has been delaying a plan to include doctors under the Labor Standards Act, said the Taiwan Medical Alliance for Labor Justice and Patient Safety.
Such a delay, said the group's chairman Chong Chee-fah, actually allows hospitals to run operations similar to those of a sweatshop, overworking doctors to the detriment of patient safety.
In addition, it denies the rights of doctors to set up unions, hold strikes or seek compensation for occupational hazards, the group said.
Former resident physician Tsai Po-chiang, who suffered a heart attack and subsequent brain damage in 2009 after working overtime of more than 84 hours for six months, also attended the press event held by the group to support the call.
“Everyone should work hard and get good rest” was the only remark Tsai was able to make during the press event, since he lost part of his memory and has trouble remembering things.
Tsai won a legal battle last year against Chi Mei Medical Center — the hospital he worked for — and was able to claim his pension.
But he is still appealing a court decision that denied his claim for compensation from the hospital on the grounds that the incident was an occupational hazard.
According to Lai Yi-min, an official with the Judicial Reform Foundation, a key argument being debated by both parties in the ongoing appeal is whether resident doctors fall within the category of employees.
Chong added that his group has received around six cases involving overworked doctors who have suffered strokes or heart attacks during the past six months, warning that such incidents will remain a problem if the profession is not protected by the labor law.
Meanwhile, a Ministry of Health and Welfare official responded to the call by citing the government's efforts to solve the overwork issue, such as demanding that teaching hospitals cap residents' work hours at 88 hours per week.
However, Lee Wei-chiang, head of the ministry's Department of Medical Affairs, pointed out that the demand, made in May, is estimated to cause a 30 percent to 50 percent shortage of residents.
Finding a way to ease the shortage is another aspect of the issue, apart from extending the labor law protection to doctors, Lee said.