TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Approximately 500 frontline medical staff took to the streets in Taipei to protest for their labor rights on Sunday (Oct. 22).
Medical workers put forward major demands: fewer working hours, a safe work environment, respect for professionalism, more opportunities for promotion, and more government investment in the health insurance system. Some protestors said that they are forced to work so many hours that they are becoming “ghosts.”
To illustrate this point, many doctors, nurses, medical technicians, radiologists, and occupational therapists dressed up as zombies and ghosts. Protesters believed that difficult working conditions are forcing them into an otherworldly state, per CNA.
Medical workers take to the streets to protest unfair labor practices. (CNA photo)
Union of Taiwan Healthcare Professionals Chair Chao Lin-Yu (趙麟宇) said in a joint interview with the media at the protest that the government should expand public sector health care expenditures. Chao also said that medical staff feel they are suffering from low wages and poor working conditions, especially for those that need to work night shifts in emergency rooms and intensive care units.
On the eve of the protest, Saturday (Oct. 21), the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHOW) invited 21 medical-related associations to exchange ideas about improving conditions for medical care staff. However, Chao accused the MHOW of being intentionally vague and unclear with their position, giving medical staff no choice but to take to the streets.
Medical workers believe they are bearing too many burdens. (CNA photo)
Taiwan Nursing and Medical Industries Union Secretary-General Lo Yun-sheng (羅運生) said that there are currently 320,000 certified nurses in Taiwan, but only about 180,000 are actually practicing, with the recent turnover rate reaching 10%. Lo said this is because of poor working conditions and difficulty applying for overtime pay.
"Nurses deserve better salaries and benefits," said Lo. He added that the current salary for nurses in some areas of Taiwan can be as low as NT$30,000 (US$1,000), and in some hospitals, there is a low nurse-to-patient ratio, making overwork very common.
Other demands made by protestors include more reasonable manpower policies and legal protections to reduce the problem of overwork for medical staff. For the moment, a vicious cycle is affecting medical workers who feel that they are not getting adequately compensated for all of their hard work.