Taiwan currently has 374 public health centers established in all 368 towns, cities and districts across the nation. They have long stood on the front lines of public health and preventative care, embedded in local communities and serving as the closest primary health care facilities for residents.
As society has changed, with Taiwan gradually becoming a super-aged society, the responsibilities of public health centers have become increasingly complex. In addition to the traditional prevention and treatment of communicable diseases, providing health care for women and children, and administering inoculations, the scope of work has expanded in recent years to include elder health care, long-term care and the social safety net. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the work has expanded further to include community contact tracing, testing and screening, and vaccination administration, all of which have put added stress on health centers and their personnel.
To enhance the service capabilities of public health centers, and address issues of aging buildings and rural health care needs, the government has introduced four major strategies for upgrading the public health service system. These strategies aim to allow for more reasonable and efficient use of basic health care resources, gradually transforming public health centers into "community health care management centers" that can ultimately provide "localized care."
Four major upgrade strategies
■ Provide localized health care services: Allow local governments to provide more localized medical care services by increasing the allocation of medical personnel in accordance with medical resources, population characteristics, and medical service needs of their respective jurisdictions.
■ Increase flexibility in medical personnel hiring: Allow cities and counties to flexibly use and hire more medical staff in accordance with the medical care service needs of community residents.
■ Renovate public health center hardware and buildings: Subsidize nearly NT$2.4 billion (US$86.2 million) between 2017 and 2025 to help public health centers renovate long-term care and social welfare office buildings, undertake seismic retrofitting, attend to repairs, reconstruct buildings, and establish new hardware environments and facilities. These efforts will allow the public to enjoy a more thoughtful, safe and friendly care environment.
■ Make rural telemedicine more convenient: In addition to expanding the telemedicine model and offering it to more people, since 2021 all public health centers in indigenous communities and offshore islands have been more vigorously promoting telemedicine clinics, combining digital technologies and the health care industry to bring health care right to the heart of indigenous communities and offshore islands.