TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals gathered in Taipei for a protest march on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building on Sunday (Nov. 19).
Led by the Alliance of Taiwan Medical Professionals, over 1,000 medical professionals gathered to demand better working conditions and to lobby the central government for policies to increase and retain talent in Taiwan’s medical industry, reported LTN.
The event was named the “Black Cross Movement” to highlight the distress and the instability inherent in the medical profession in Taiwan. Some protesters carried a huge black cross with cracks visible, which symbolized wounds caused by what the alliance views as poor management of the country’s health industry by the government.
The protestors had two primary demands for the government. First, an increase in government expenditures in the medical industry more in line with Taiwan’s GDP and similarly developed economies. Second, to codify law that will place caps on the number of medical professionals permitted to ensure quality control of the workforce.
According to organizers, implementing these two demands by the government will result in better working conditions and pay for nursing staff, maintain a qualified workforce of healthcare professionals, secure much-needed resources for medical institutions, and ensure greater public safety.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals protest in Taipei during 'Black Cross' march, Nov. 19.
In recent years, the Ministry of Health and Welfare as well as many private hospitals have announced salary increases to try and boost retention rates of nursing staff. However, many nurses and other primary healthcare providers argue the wage increases are miniscule, and do not address the root of the crisis facing professionals in the medical industry.
Further, in spite of salary increases, many hospitals have placed stricter demands on nurses, and in some cases, have reduced or completely removed bonuses from the annual salary of nursing staff, reported UDN. For this reason, many argue the measures have been hollow and ineffectual when it comes to attracting and retaining nurses.
With the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Taiwan began to suffer a mass exodus of nurses and other healthcare professionals from the medical industry. The ones who remained have suffered from immense stress as they struggle to maintain quality care for patients amid an overburdened healthcare industry.
In an effort to increase nursing staff, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has plans to loosen criteria for the national nursing examination, a move that has angered many across the medical industry.
The founder of the Taiwan Aesthetic Medicine and Industry Organization, Tsai Feng-chou (蔡豐州), compared the ministry’s proposed solution to “continuously pouring water into a cup with a hole in the bottom.” “If we already can’t retain medical staff, then how is it useful to relax our existing quality controls?” he asked.
A representative of the Taiwan Nursing and Medical Industries Union, Chen Yu-feng (陳玉鳳), commented on the shortage of nurses and the difficulty of keeping trained nurses in hospitals, per LTN. She said that in Taiwan there are 320,000 certified nurses, but only 190,000 active practitioners.
In 2014, the rate of nurses to patients in hospitals was one to 13, and in the past nine years, that rate has dropped to one to 20 in some hospitals, said Chen. This demonstrates the difficulty of retaining qualified nurses.
Chen argues that simply hiring more nurses will not solve the problem. Without corresponding wage increases and policies to ensure nurses are not consistently overworked, increasing the number will not make a difference, she says.
In addition to doctors and nurses, the event also drew dentists, pharmacists, and practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine to demand better treatment from the government. Representatives of major political parties were also present to show their support for those in the medical profession.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals protest in Taipei during "Black Cross" march, Nov. 19.