Health workers enraged over Taiwan’s move to open up for medical travel

Physician said move hailed as #TaiwanCanHelp involves greater risk for frontline medical workers

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Participants are greeted by flight attendants in protective suits during a mock trip abroad at Taipei Songshan Airport in Taipei.

Participants are greeted by flight attendants in protective suits during a mock trip abroad at Taipei Songshan Airport in Taipei. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The move for Taiwan to open up to foreign visitors seeking medical treatment starting Aug. 1 has drawn backlash from the country’s medical professionals.

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on July 22 announced the relaxation of entry rules for foreigners traveling to Taiwan for medical care, in what the coronavirus task force called a way to show “Taiwan can help.”

While there are restrictions as to whom would be allowed entry for the purpose, the measure has met opposition from those fighting COVID-19 on the frontline. Tan Che-kim (陳志金), attending physician at the Intensive Care Unit at the Chi Mei Medical Center in Tainan, criticized the move as gambling on health workers’ trust in the government.

The vocal doctor questioned the possibility of implementing a sound system regarding the safety risks of countries from which citizens will be allowed entry. There is also plenty of room for interpretation of medical services listed as accessible via this program. “How do you define humanitarian aid or urgent medical needs?” he snapped.

Despite strict requirements for such visitors, the move will definitely increase the chances of hospital-acquired infections, which is a risk that need not be taken when the coronavirus continues to rage worldwide, Tan reckoned. He believes that it’s more sensible to designate specific medical institutions and recruit voluntary health workers for the program with extra pay and insurance.

According to the CECC, anyone traveling to Taiwan for medical treatment must provide a health insurance certificate, a health report including a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, a treatment plan, and an affidavit for mandatory quarantine before they will be able to apply for permits from the health and immigration authorities.