The development of physical therapy in Taiwan began in the 1950's, continued for half a century, and can be divided into three periods: 1) initiation period, 2) foundation-building period, and 3) expansion period.
INITIATION PERIOD (1950-1966)
After the break out of poliomyelitis epidemic in the 1950's, the great demand for physical therapy, brought about by the children with physical handicaps deriving from poliomyelitis attacks, spurred the development of physical therapy in Taiwan. The children, though they survived the epidemic, were left with a permanent imprint on both their physical appearances and mental status.
In 1958, Taipei Veteran General Hospital was formally founded with a Physical Therapy Department under the Physical Medicine Division, which heralded the beginning of the physical therapy profession being included in the formal system of a major hospital. In 1960, the Physical Medicine Division of Taipei Veteran General Hospital began formally functioning as the first rehabilitation center in Taiwan.
In 1962, National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) revised its organization regulations to formally establish the Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Department and Professor Shi-rong Chiu, President of NTUH, held the acting director's position. He recruited Chiun-shi Wei , In-nan Shieh, Shi-in Chun, Kuan-chi Tzai, and Shin-shoon Guan and provided them with training in physical therapy.
In 1964, Ping Dong Christian Hospital formally founded its physical therapy department, which applied its services to both children affected with poliomyelitis and general patients who needed physical therapy.
In 1965, the Rehabilitation Building of National Taiwan University Hospital, the first rehabilitation institution built with its own specialized ward, was completed. On the first floor, there were offices of the out-patient clinic and physical therapy rooms, and on the second floor, there was a rehabilitation ward consisting of 22 beds and an electromyography room.
FOUNDATION-BUILDING PERIOD (1967-1984)
During the years between the beginning of the first baccalaureate physical therapy program at National Taiwan University (NTU) in 1967 and that of the second baccalaureate physical therapy program at Chung Shan Medical College in 1985, the physical therapy profession in Taiwan was going through the foundation-building period.
In 1975, Taiwan physical therapists realized the importance of quality control for their professional development and thus formally established the Physical Therapy Association of the Republic of China, and Mr. Chin-shan Loo was elected the first president of the association. The purpose of the association was to facilitate the development of physical therapy expertise and the interchange of academic research results, offer professional continuing education, legalize physical therapy professional license, and increase the channels of physical therapy international exchanges.
To provide local physical therapists with opportunities for self-improvement, the first physical therapy expertise journal, Formosan Journal of Physical Therapy, began to be published in 1976.
With the growing acknowledgement of the importance of physical therapy, all major local hospitals, in turn, began establishing a rehabilitation department or physical therapy department, both of which mainly offered general rather than specialized physical therapy services.
In 1980, the Department of Health (DOH) of the R.O.C. government demanded that all the provincial and municipal hospitals have to meet the basic requirement that each hospital has to recruit at least two qualified physical therapists to its medical personnel.
Following the trend of the specialization of medical doctors, the clinical services of physical therapy also began specializing. All the major hospitals, one after another, founded acute neuropathy unit, burn unit, and cardiosurgery intensive care unit; furthermore, for out-patients, they established cerebral palsy clinic, respiration therapy clinic, and sports injury clinic, all of which offered related physical therapy.
EAPANSION PERIOD (1985-till now)
Since the first baccalaureate physical therapy program was established at NTU, it had been the only program in Taiwan for 18 years until the second one began at Chung Shan Medical College in 1985. Thereafter, the number of physical therapists has been increasing dramatically, and hence physical therapy in Taiwan has been growing prosperously.
As baccalaureate physical therapy programs in Taiwan were offered under the name of School of Rehabilitation Medicine, the role difference between a physical therapist and a medical doctor of rehabilitation was rather unclear. In 1992, at NTU, the name of the School of Rehabilitation Medicine was first changed into the School of Physical Therapy. The other universities soon followed the NTU example, with the last School of Rehabilitation Medicine scheduled to be converted into the School of Physical Therapy at Kaoshiung Medical University in 2002.
Regarding the aspect of the expertise system and organization, the most important event was that the Laws and Regulations Governing the Practice of Physical Therapy were finally enforced on February 3, 1995. With the establishment of a national licensing system, people could receive high quality services from qualified physical therapists. And the Physical Therapy Association of the Republic of China, after struggling for 22 years, was successful in accomplishing this historical mission.
In 1995, after the first national examination for the candidates of physical therapists, Mei-hwa Jan, President of the association, was granted the first physical therapist license, which further confirmed the professional expertise of a physical therapist. In 1997, according to the laws, the provincial and municipal physical therapist labor unions were founded. In 1999, all the associations and unions agreed to form a national union whose purpose was to promulgate the role of physical therapists, work out a common goal, and formulate a policy which could assure the health of the public.
The 1st chairperson of the Physical Therapist Labor Union of Taipei City was Ray-yiou Wang, that of the Physical Therapist Labor Union of Taiwan Province was Jan-fong Yang, that of the Physical Therapist Labor Union of Kaoshiung City was Guan-yin Chang, and that of the Association Union of the Physical Therapist Labor Union of the Republic of China was Fay-peng Fang. Until the end of the year 2000, there were around 2,500 qualified physical therapists with a license and about 67% of them worked as physical therapists. On average, there were 6.6 physical therapists for every 100,000 population.
In addition, the Physical Therapy Association of the Republic of China has been actively propagating the continuing education credit system to maintain the quality of the expertise of local physical therapists. Starting from 1987, the Association has held over ten continuing education courses for incumbent physical therapists every year which included discussion conferences, study seminars and lectures, all of which were given by both prominent domestic and international scholars.
In addition to offering continuing education courses, the Association persistently suggested that the government should establish a grading system for physical therapists, an accrediting standard for physical therapy education institutions, and an assessment standard for physical therapy treatment institutions. Therefore, the physical therapy profession has been acclaimed for its self-demanding attitudes and industrious spirit.
Since 1995, helped by varieties of other specialists, the faculty of the School of Physical Therapy at NTU together with the members of the Physical Therapy Association of the Republic of China have participated in the Specialized and Integrated Intervention Plan for Physical and Mental Handicapped Children coordinated by the Taipei County government in order to provide physically and mentally handicapped children with integrated evaluation and treatment.
Thereby, physical therapists could offer integrated services to schoolchildren; thus, physical therapists became part of the required personnel in the local education bureau, which extended the physical therapy services from the medical system to the education system. On August 6, 1998, the first physical therapy clinic, Sunshine Physical Therapy Clinic Affiliated to Sunshine Foundation, opened for business in Taipei.
In 1999, entrusted by Taipei City's Bureau of Health, the Physical Therapist Labor Union of Taipei City organized a home-care physical therapy team and offered free but high quality long-term services, which later on was followed by the government of Chiayi City, Nantou County, Taichung County, and Taipei County. And thus, all of this further confirmed the value of the community services provided by physical therapists.
In July 2001, the restriction on instituting a physical therapy office in the community was lifted. Therefore, on November 3, 2001, Lee Tze Chian Physical Therapy Clinic, the first specially assigned physical therapy clinic by the National Health Insurance Bureau , opened for business in Bay Ton Area, Taichung City. Thereafter, instead of staying in a major hospital to wait for patients, a physical therapist could go straight into the community and render immediate assistance to them.