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Talk of the Day -- Clogged hospital emergency rooms

2014/04/03 21:14:31

In Taiwan, some 18,000 people per day seek emergency medical care, which has led to longer waiting times in hospital emergency rooms, greater pressure on resources and a reduced availability of doctors.

National Health Insurance Administration statistics show that the total number of patients seeking emergency room services last year was 6.86 million, with 1.83 million going to hospitals rather than other clinics.

The following are excerpts of reports in major dailies on the difficulties of accessing emergency room services.

United Daily News:

Taichung Veterans General Hospital has the most crowded emergency rooms, with 9.28 percent of patients having to wait 48 hours for treatment. It is followed by National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) with 7.69 percent having to wait 48 hours, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital 6.38 percent, Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital 5.64 percent and Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital 4.52 percent.

National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) executive Lin Ah-ming said that the NHIA allocated NT$1 billion earlier this year to help improve the quality of emergency medical services.

As a result, the number of people having to wait two days in Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital's emergency rooms dropped from 7 percent to 5.6 percent, he said.

Lin also said the NHIA launched a program in May 2012 to encourage hospitals to move patients with minor illnesses out of emergency rooms, an initiative that has proved effective.

NTUH spokesman Tan Ching-ting said patients rely too heavily on emergency services, which has led to longer waiting times in hospital emergency rooms.

Chu Hsien-kuang, a representative of a medical treatment reform foundation, said he hopes the NHIA will make available its data such as hospital bed occupancy rates, bed turnover rates, and quality of medical care, which could help ease clogged hospital emergency rooms. (April 3, 2014)

China Times:

Lee Wui-chiang, head of the Ministry of Health and Welfare's Department of Medical Affairs, said that earlier this year, the ministry introduced a guide which breaks down emergency cases into five different levels, one being the most urgent and five the least.

Based on this, acutely ill patients should be given a priority in emergency rooms, he said.

In addition, a medical expert said people suffering from minor ailments, such as colds, mild gastroenteritis and small cuts, or who need to repeat prescriptions, should be dealt with at primary healthcare centers. (April 3, 2014)

(By Evelyn Kao)