Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

My father just went into the hospital for some minor surgery and will be staying there for about a week to recover.

I was surprised to learn that the hospital doesn't provide meals for its inpatients. This means that the patient's family must provide, prepare and deliver all three meals to the patient on a daily basis. As you can imagine, it's quite a burden for the patient's family. In fact, the hospital doesn't provide much more amenities than a one star hotel! We've had to bring the most basic of basics such as: bath towels, hand soap, drinking water, drinking glasses and eating utensils.

I was appalled by the lack of service provided by this particular hospital. From what I've observed the nurses don't even make rounds or check on patients much. I think that they are just focused on the intensive care unit- where all bed-ridden patients' beds stay one large room with their beds separated by curtains. Otherwise, I really wonder what the nurses busy themselves with. In fact, my Mother hired a personal health aide to accompany my father during his stay. This was proved to be very helpful with all of the running around my mom had to do. Unfortunately, I couldn't help out much during the days since I was busy teaching.

I can't say that the above description stands for all hospitals in Taiwan. My dad ended up at this particular hospital because the surgeon who performed my father's surgery is very reputable and a personal friend. Fortunately, my father's surgery went off without a hitch and there have been no complications so far.

My one conclusion or explanation for why many hospital situations in Taiwan have evolved the way it has or still persist in this way- is that it is an indication of the extent to which the Taiwanese depend on their families and social networks. There isn’t a strong or well-organized system of social welfare institutions. The burden of caring for the terminally or chronically ill is usually assumed by family members who effectively become home health aides to their ailing relatives, or if more affluent, home health aides are hired into the patients' homes. In Taiwan, this responsiblity falls on the son due to lingering Chinese patriarchal ideals. And by corollary, daughters-in-law. Once a woman gets married, her primary responsiblity is to her husband's family. If parents are fortunate enough to have both sons and daughters; it is their sons who are expected to care for them in times of need. Those who only have daughters are left to lament the uncertainty that declining health brings since they cannot count on their daughters for support. It's a pretty disturbing custom that I've heard so many middle-aged Taiwanese bemoan. I just can't understand these customs. I can't accept the idea that once a woman gets married, that her obligation to her family of origin should change.

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