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Taiwan's health ministry upgrades 3 hospitals to 'medical centers'

Source: Taiwan News by Sean Scanlan

Taiwan's Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) announced evaluation results for medical institutions across the country on Tuesday (Feb. 6), with three hospitals passing the review process to be upgraded to become medical centers.

The three hospitals rising to the top tier of medical institutions include Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital, Taipei Medical University Shuang Ho Hospital, and the National Taiwan University Hospital Hsinchu Branch. All three institutions are located in northern Taiwan.

The three newly approved medical centers average around 10,000 outpatient visits and 500 emergency room visits per day, according to the National Health Insurance Administration, per Business Today.

The upgraded status of the new medical centers will also allow them to charge higher fees. Beginning March 1, registration for outpatient clinic services will increase from NT$240 (US$7.67) to NT$420 (US$13.41), and emergency room fees will increase from NT$400 to NT$750.

Different types of hospitals

Taiwan has three classifications of hospitals: medical centers, municipal hospitals, and local hospitals. Medical centers have the best medical technology and the highest-rated service.

Medical centers are the first choice for patients when seeking advanced healthcare if their financial burden allows. However, other factors can also come into play, such as medical referrals and simple convenience, leading to overuse of such medical center services.

Beginning in 1988, the MOHW started reviewing all accredited hospitals and medical centers every four years. Medical institutions are allowed to apply for upgraded status to a medical center during the review process.

Distribution of medical centers

General guidelines set by MOHW allow for the certification of a medical center for every area with a population of two million. Based on this regulation, there should be 12 medical centers distributed across Taiwan, though at the moment there are currently 19 medical centers.

The incentive to receive medical center accreditation includes charging higher registration fees as well as more compensation from the National Health Administration Bureau. Though some critics argue there are already too many accredited medical centers in Taiwan, the addition of two medical centers in Greater Taipei was justified by cutting-edge medical services as well as acknowledging the growing population of New Taipei City.

Hospitals applying for medical center evaluations need to meet three criteria. First of all, an excellent overall hospital evaluation (40%), an evaluation of teaching services (20%), and a medical center task review (40%).

More medical centers will require more financial outlay by the central government. For example, the three newly accredited medical centers may lead to an annual difference in health insurance payments of as much as NT$50–100 million, according to National Health Insurance Administration Director-General Shih Chung-liang (石崇良).

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