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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Taiwan National Health Service -- Good & Bad

Chinese parents value their children’s education -- and although it is less than in the older days, many still want their children to become doctors. Hence, competition is extremely stiff for entry into the top medical programmes.

Another result is that there is no lack of doctors, in any town there is at least several small clinics spread over the main streets, with a couple of dentists in between. The quality varies of course, but even the smallest ones get the basic plumbing (colds, coughs) done. Small family run pharmacy's litterly dot the landscape, together with the odd more prestigious Chinese medicine stores.

Taiwanese eagerly swap recommendations on the better doctors, and of course, each family has a stash of traditional recipes that are handed down and made into medicine at the local Chinese medicine store.

A nation wide National Health System ensures that more or less everyone has access to low cost medical care, although costs are rising. Payment is usually through the salaries for the working family members, and then each associated family member (parents, children) is added into the costs, which can become quite a stiff part of the family income as salaries are low.

A consultation to a doctor will set you back between NT$ 100 - NT$ 200 (US$ 3-6), with the remainder being paid out of NHS funds. This low entry fees ensures that there is no shortage of people visiting the doctors. Older people have access to good medical care, making sure that their quality of life has become much higher.

For someone used to European style small private clinics, one or two per town, the Taiwanese system is a relief. You are not linked to any private practitioner, competition sorts out those clinics who can handle and those who can't; and if you do pick up a bug (this is a sub tropical country with a whole range of interesting diseases) that brings you down rapidly, all the major hospitals (and there are quite a few) offer 24 hour emergency access to services.

Of course, some of it is too good to be true. The national health system is relatively new -- extremely popular -- and thus costing the government a fortune. The open access allows people to shop around, and potentially waste a lot of precious resources. Costs are rising -- a family of four already pays a significant part of its income, especially if its a single income family -- to medical care.

Finding a balance -- affordable health care; without sacrificing its strongest points is going to be a major challenge, but of course the same is true in any 1st world country.

1 Comments:

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2:16 AM

 

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