The China Post news staff

President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday said the government will work to improve nurses’ working conditions, with the Bureau of National Health Insurance (NHI) allocating a NT$2 billion fund to increase the employment of nurses. Ma made the promises at a ceremony honoring 10 outstanding nurses with awards offered by a private foundation. Ma also urged hospitals to simplify the work of nurses, and relieve from paper work unrelated their nursing duties. The president said he will unveil a 10-point policy to improve nurses’ working conditions on Nurse Day on Thursday and will seek to turn them into laws mandating reform for the occupation. A recent report by the highest government watchdog, the Control Yuan, lambasted the administration for failing to address the nurses’ problems. The report has earned Taiwan’s hospitals the name of “sweat shops” where nurses, as well as doctors, are overloaded and have to work long hours without breaks.

The number of patients that a nurse has to take care of usually exceeds the quota allowed by the law, as many qualified nurses have been discouraged from working in hospitals because of the poor work environment. Some doctors and nurses took to the streets in Taipei on May 1 Labor Day to demand improvements. Nursing schools are still a popular choice for students seeking a respectable career, but many of them are actually looking at the prospect of working in other countries where the profession receives better pay in less stressful environments. Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta told the award-presentation ceremony that the government has formed a task force with the nurse union and experts to find solutions to the problems. Ten nurses received the award, the “Nightingale Prize,” given by the Ci Yue Foundation.