Report reveals hospitals reuse single-use devices on patients in Taiwan

An investigative report exposes unsanitary practices by hospitals that put patients at risk of cross infection


(Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Expensive single-patient-use medical devices are being recycled and reused on patients at hospitals in Taiwan, reported United Evening News.

In a series of investigative reports, reporters Li Shu-jen (李樹人), Chien Hao-cheng (簡浩正), and Chen Jie-ling (陳婕翎) have exposed a common practice among hospitals in Taiwan to recycle and reuse more costly medical products that are intended for single-patient-use only.

The price of a brand-new laparoscopic sealer/divider attached to an electrosurgical unit, an essential medical instrument in most surgical operations, is about NT$ 30,000 (US$1,000). The item is not covered by the universal medical insurance, which means patients have to cover the cost out of pocket.

To cut down the cost for patients, many hospitals, including National Taiwan University Hospital, would inform patients that there are lower-priced options available, "re-sterilized instruments."

According to the report, out of 77 hospitals that provide electrosurgeries, 32 of them advertise the service for under NT$ 25,000 (US$ 800). The same surgical operations only cost NT$3000 (US$ 100) at the Tainan Municipal Hospital, making it the cheapest option among all hospitals.

Wang Ting-kuei (王亭貴), a spokesperson for National Taiwan University Hospital, told the United Evening News that the Hospital's Medical Devices Management Committee (醫療器材委員會) has a stringent inspection procedure that does not compromise patients' rights. He added that only a few instruments are re-sterilized and reused between two to five times according to medical safety standards. Wang said this is done because the hospital is trying to provide more options for patients who cannot afford the full out-of-pocket amount of payment.

Wang said the hospital always makes sure the patients are aware of their options.

The report and follow-up stories can be found on the United Evening News Website.