Taipei, April 21 (CNA) Taiwan's Legislature passed an amendment Friday to stiffen the penalties for physical or verbal violence against medical care personnel, with insults of medical workers to be fined for the first time.
Under the amendment to the Medical Care Act, those who obstruct the execution of medical care or treatment through public insults can be fined between NT$30,000 (US$988) and NT$50,000.
Also, those hindering medical personnel from carrying out their duties by means of violence or intimidation will likely face stiffer punishment in practice.
Prior to being amended, the Medical Care Act called for a jail term of up to three years, a fine of up to NT$300,000, or a maximum 120 days in detention, commutable to a fine, for using violence or intimidation against a medical worker.
The amendment has removed the 120-day detention option, which judges generally chose as the sentence for this kind of behavior, leaving courts with only the two stricter options.
Legislator Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) of the opposition Kuomintang said she believed the revision will better protect medical workers and patients and maintain a healthy medical care environment.
Lee hoped the amendment will give prosecutors and judges the means to more strongly punish violence against medical personnel while also deterring such behavior.
"The goal of the amendment is not to collect fines but to make more people aware of the rights and interests of medical personnel and patients," Lee said.
Reports of violence to medical personnel in Taiwan have popped up in recent years, including a case in November 2014 in which Wang Kui-fen (王貴芬), a representative of Luzhu Township residents in Taoyuan, slapped a nurse at Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.
In June last year, a 48-year-old man called the name of a pharmacist at Shou-Chwan Memorial Hospital in Changhua County and slapped him.
The Taiwan Medical Association reacted by blasting the incompetence of law enforcement authorities and local health care authorities in stopping such violence.
Shih Chung-liang (石崇良), director of the Department of Medical Affairs under the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said Friday the amendment will stiffen punishment for such behavior.
"It means that the odds the offender will be sent to jail are higher," he said.
(By Wang Cheng-chung and Elizabeth Hsu)