A new policy for obtaining COVID medication was implemented nationwide on Friday. People infected with COVID can now send a proxy to a hospital doctor, to get a prescription for medicine on their behalf. The policy is aimed at expediting treatment for patients in need. But on Friday, some doctors expressed frustrations, saying that the policy still doesn''t make COVID drugs easily available. They say that "prescriptions by proxy" can only be obtained at 137 hospitals nationwide, which are not enough to meet demand.

Before one call ends, another comes through. Today, private clinicians are authorized to give consults not only by video call, but by phone as well. These services for COVID patients have only rolled out recently. But this clinic is already inundated with calls.

To help get prescriptions out there faster, the government is allowing patients to speak with physicians via phone or video call, and have medicine sent to their homes. Patients can also have friends or family members attend a hospital consult on their behalf. If an infected person is eligible for treatment with oral medication, a friend or family member who lives separately can visit the doctor with the patient’s health insurance card and positive test result. At any of 137 hospitals nationwide that carry antiviral medication, they can follow the standard procedures to see a doctor. The doctor will assess the patient’s medical needs based on their written account of their symptoms, and write them a prescription if needed.

Lin Yung-zen

Taiwan Primary Care Association

Antiviral medications should be available at all medical institutions. Access should not be limited to only specified distribution hospitals. The purpose is to make medication more accessible, so why impose limits? You should open it up to all hospitals. Now you are saying you want patients to have faster access to medication, but then you tell them to ask friends and family members to go to one of these hospitals to get the prescription. It doesn’t make sense.

Dr. Lin Yung-zen says friends and family should be allowed to get COVID pills at clinics, and not just hospitals. He says there are too few designated hospitals nationwide, which puts pressure on the medical system. It also drives up the caller rate for video call and telephone consultations, he says. With so much demand, he says it’s hard for him to schedule in-person consultations.

Lin Yung-zen

Taiwan Primary Care Association

Video calls last an average of 20 to 30 minutes. If it were only a small number of people that would be fine, but with so many people calling, I can’t do in-person consultations.?

Pediatrician

Che Tsan-wei

These video calls have recently become a real headache for us. One of the first problems is that everyone’s internet bandwidth is very different. When you have signal delays, it’s a very serious waste of time. At a time like this, every second counts.?

New options for consulting with physicians and accessing medication can offer conveniences for patients, but poor execution means frustration all around. Doctors hope authorities can make adjustments on a rolling basis.