Taipei, April 24 (CNA) Several leprosy patients and students rallied outside the Department of Health (DOH) Tuesday to protest the lack of adequate care for the patients and their need to compete with regular patients for medical resources.
People with leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, are entitled to specialized medical resources under the Rights Protection and Compensation for Hansen's Disease Patients Act, said a student surnamed Tsai, a member of the Lo-Sheng Youth Alliance.
Based on the Act, the department should establish an individual fund for the patients, he said.
At present, leprosy sufferers are hospitalized at the Losheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium and the nearby Huei Long Hospital, which provides medical services for both leprosy patients and people with other ailments.
Losheng Sanatorium Self-Help Organization Chairwoman Chang Yun-ming said the sanitorium only has 10 caregivers for its roughly 200 patients, a clear indication of the inadequacy of the facility's nursing resources.
Tsai also noted that Wang Chiang-ho, a leprosy patient at Huei Long Hospital, committed suicide in July 2010 because he could not afford to pay his steep medical bills.
Their protest outside the health agency Tuesday was met with heavy security, with some 20 policemen holding shields to maintain order at the site.
Teng Su-wen, director of the department's Bureau of Nursing and Health Services Development, met with the protesters and promised to discuss the issues they raised with other officials.
Acknowledging the lack of resources allocated, the DOH said in a press statement that it will continue to increase the subsidy for leprosy patients each year to ensure quality medical care.
The DOH said an increased budget will be used to hire more caretakers for the aging leprosy sufferers and to set up 24-hour medical care services.
It also noted that the 211 patients registered at Losheng Sanitorium in 2011 are separated into four groups, based on the severity of their condition. Some need constant nursing supervision, but others need less.
Forty patients with less severe symptoms share 1-3 nurses, while 28 more serious cases share 8-10 medical staff, it pointed out.
The supervisor of Losheng Sanitorium could not be reached for comment at the time this story was released.
(By Chen Ching-fang, Nancy Liu and Ann Chen)