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Talk of the Day - Surgeon's decision creates concern about brain drain

2012/05/24 20:45:52

Hung Hau-yun is one of the most promising and admired chief resident surgeons at the prestigious National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), but he has become a headache for hospital management since he decided to quit his hospital job and go into private practice as a cosmetic surgeon.

Hung, 32, is set to leave his hospital position July 1. He is the the first NTUH-trained surgeon to quit immediately after obtaining a specialist license and instead choose the field of cosmetic surgery, according to local media reports.

In a recent interview, he said his desire for a better quality of life is the main reason behind his decision to change his career path.

The follow are excerpts from a special report in the Thursday edition of the United Evening News on Hung's career change and its possible impact:

Hung said in an interview with this paper that although he knowshe would regret his decision one day, he has to quit because he is tired of the working conditions.

"After working more than 100 hours a week for five years at a monthly pay that's highly disproportionate to the workload, I'm really tired," Hung said.

He also wrote on his Facebook page that while he still feels senseof achievements when seeing patients recover well after surgery, he hasbeen fed up with harsh working environment and increasing medical disputes.

His Facebook post has caught the attention of almost every student at National Taiwan University's College of Medicine and has inspired heated discussion among young surgeons on the future of the medical profession.

Many of Hung's mentors at the college and the hospital have tried to dissuade him from leaving the frontlines of medical care. Having failed to convince him to stay, some professors and fellow surgeons now regard him as a maverick or dissident, media reports said.

NTUH spokeswoman Tan Ching-ting said everyone has his or her own life plan, and not every student, intern or resident would agree with Hung's views.

"We respect his decision and we will carefully review his suggestions and opinions on improving hospital management and working conditions," Tang said.

Lin Ching-yun, NTUH's first female surgeon who once headed a national plastic surgery association, said Hung's exit from the hospital signals a further brain drain in the surgical profession.

Taiwan currently has about 44,000 licensed doctors, 12,000 of whom are cosmetic surgeons.

"I'm afraid our health insurance system would eventually drive many of our qualified doctors to abandon their specialized fields in an effort to vie for a share of the medical cosmetic market," Lin said.

According to the hospital's regulations, Hung could become an attending doctor at NTUH's Yunlin branch in southern Taiwan this summer and return in two years time to the main hospital in Taipei as one of its youngest surgeons.

Lin said plastic surgery and dermatology are the core of medical cosmetology. Taiwan has only about 1,700 licensed specialists in those fields, but there are more than 12,000 practitioners in the medical cosmetic profession. Many of them are from other fields, such as family medicine, rehabilitation, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology and ophthalmology, she said.

"The flawed and unreasonable payment regulations under our national health insurance program has distorted our medical service system and prompted many young doctors to give up their specialized fields and pursue a career in the more lucrative area of cosmetic surgery," Lin lamented.

She said if the government fails to pay attention to the serious brain drain in general surgery, patients would soon have a hard time finding qualified surgeons. (May 24, 2012)

(By Sofia Wu)
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