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Work shift reform still unable to alleviate shortage of hospital staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Although some hospitals have not begun to implement a newly amended law that reduces work hours for hospital staff, the shortage of staff is still an issue for most medical organizations, said Health and Welfare Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) yesterday.

The Council of Labor Affairs' (CLA) announcement that flexible working hours were canceled for the hospital staff beginning this year gave way to negative feedback from some hospitals, complaining that it would be nearly impossible for paramedics and nursing staff to pause crucial first-aid work to clock out when their shift ended.

Hospital reform group Taiwan Hospital Association (THA) matched the CLA's decision with another, saying that most hospitals will be canceling evening clinics as there will not be enough people to man the hospitals.

Kuomintang Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) questioned the canceling of extra shifts. The hospitals reported indifference to the new decree, which called for hospitals paying extra if the staff encountered emergency cases that required for extra hours, said Tsai. “But the CLA's 'dictatorial article' will cause medical risks when hospital staff are leaving in the middle of surgeries because their hours are up,” Tsai added.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) had registered over 145,000 hospital staff in its database but only 60 percent of the said staff is actually still employed, said Tsai.

“Spending NT$5.5 billion to employ more medical staff in recent three years have not solved the problem for the MOHW, the staff still refuse to work in hospitals (due to the heavy workload). The ratio of staff to ward should be lowered in order to lessen the pressure.”

Chiu explained that if staff had prolonged their shifts due to urgent cases or on-going operations, all the hospital had to do was to report the delay to the CLA. “The MOHW will include the new staff-to-ward ratio in its hospital reviews. The less patients and wards each staff has to care for in the future, the more health insurance the hospital receives; this new system will be carried out in 2015,” said Chiu.

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