Medical workers unions advocate for better labor protections amid COVID

Labor unions say that more than 26,000 medical professionals have caught COVID in Taiwan. However, only a little over 400 people have applied for workplace hazard compensation.Unions say hospitals often make it hard for employees to apply, asking them to take personal or sick leave instead of a specially designated leave for COVID. Union representatives, lawmakers and medical staffs on Friday held a press conference at the Legislative Yuan to ask for better labor protections.

A group of doctors and nurses shout in protest. Over the past two years, COVID infection risk in the workplace has been high, but they say they don’t even have basic protections.

Sun Shao-jun
National Taiwan University Hospital Union
Patients may take emotional actions, such as pulling at the equipment, kicking at doors or trying to run out of isolation wards. All of these are high-risk factors for doctors and nurses. Seventy-four percent of medical care personnel believe that the support they get from their employers is insufficient.

Chang Heng-hao
Taipei Doctors Union
Our data here shows only a few hundred applications where the person passed the assessment and received compensation. Ninety percent of medical staff think that the assistance from the government to get occupational hazard compensation is severely lacking.

Estimates put the number of infected medical personnel at 26,000. But only 1 in 40, or a total of 465 people applied for compensation. And unions say that the total tally could be even higher. They say medical staff are not given paid leave if they get COVID, and more than 40% of infected staff had to take sick leave or personal leave, which don’t offer full pay and infringe on their right to take leave. Making many doctors and nurses even more unhappy is that hospitals make it hard for them to apply for compensation.

Wang Hsiao-hsien
Taiwan Federation of Medical Unions
When medical staff report that they have been harmed at the workplace, the hospital will make things difficult for them. First they will say that you shouldn’t bother for just a few thousand dollars. Then they say, “who knows where you went after work?” Then you also need to prove that you have the same virus strain as a patient.

Chiu Hsien-chih
New Power Party lawmaker
Just go and investigate this situation using the labor inspection abilities that come with the Ministry of Labor. I don’t believe that you don’t know about this situation. You just don’t want to open your eyes and see it. People who pretend to be asleep won’t wake up.

On the frontlines against COVID, medical personnel are busy, day and night. Lawmakers are calling on the government to grant more protections to medical workers. They say that would also ensure a good quality of medical care.

Voice of Chen Hui-min
Bureau of Labor Insurance
If the employer is unwilling to authorize an occupational hazard compensation claim, workers can send them off on their own. Once they’ve been received, our bureau will initiate an administrative investigation.

The pandemic is still not over and doctors and nurses are continuing with the fight. They can only hope that their rights and interests will not be overlooked by society.
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