Taiwan health minister opposes crackdown on illegal foreign nurses

Chen Shih-chung says focus should be on educating caregivers during coronavirus outbreak

Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung visiting a hospital Saturday Feb. 29 

Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung visiting a hospital Saturday Feb. 29  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — There should be a focus on the prevention of infections and on education instead of a crackdown on illegal foreign caregivers and nurses during the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said Saturday (Feb. 29).

His comments followed concern about an Indonesian caregiver diagnosed as Taiwan’s 32nd coronavirus case. After confirmation, she was found to have been working illegally at two hospitals and to have been traveling by public transport all over Taipei, provoking concern that illegal nurses might be a source of more infections.

However, Chen told reporters Saturday that Taiwan needed all the nurses and caregivers it could get in the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus, CNA reported. If the priority were to investigate the legality of nursing staff in order to replace foreigners with local nurses, that would be unfair, the minister reportedly said.

Chen added that in the case of a crackdown, patients might no longer be able to receive adequate care. The emphasis is now on teaching the caregivers how to care for patients and making it clear they can not move around the hospital all the time, he said.

The minister, who also heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) in charge of fighting the virus outbreak, compared the policy with getting drug addicts off their habit by using methadone. The treatment focused on making patients healthy again, not on punishing them for a possible crime, CNA quoted Chen as saying.