‘Travel bubble’ would make it easier for Palauans to seek treatment in Taiwan

  • By Lee I-chia / Staff reporter, with CNA

The creation of a “travel bubble” between Taiwan and Palau would not only benefit tourism on both sides, but would also make it easier for Palauans to seek medical treatment in Taiwan, a doctor said yesterday.

Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr and his delegation arrived in Taiwan on Sunday afternoon to promote tourism to Palau, as the “travel bubble,” which exempts tourists from quarantine, is to begin on Thursday.

Whipps yesterday visited Shin Kong Wu Ho-su Memorial Hospital for a health examination, which took about three hours.

Hospital vice superintendent Hung Tzu-jen (洪子仁) said Whipps made a private visit to the hospital to understand the medical equipment and services used in Taiwan’s health examinations.

Whipps received a positron emission tomography scan and described the experience as “fantastic,” Hung said.

The hospital has since 2007 sent medical teams to Palau to provide health services to local residents, and in 2013 signed a contract with the Palauan government for cross-border medical referral, allowing patients to be transported to Taiwan for treatment or hospitalization.

Hung said more than 4,000 Palauans have since been referred to Taiwan to receive medical treatment.

The Palau National Health Insurance offers a subsidy of US$500 to each resident to receive a health examination in Taiwan, he added.

An average of about 50 Palauans received health examinations at the hospital every year until the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Hung said.

Due to the pandemic, Palauans who need medical attention have been traveling to Taiwan on pre-arranged chartered flights over the past year, he said.

Eight Palauans arrived in Taiwan on the same plane with Whipps to receive treatment at the hospital, he said.

However, they are isolated in wards and would need to produce two consecutive negative COVID-19 test results before treatment can begin, he added.

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