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  • 작성자 사진Kim Ji-yeon

[Society] Nurse’s Death Highlights the Problems Plaguing the Korean Medical Community

No.159 / Sep 5, 2022

A nurse at Asan Medical Center (AMC) died on Saturday, July 30, 2022, after collapsing on duty. According to an anonymous post on Blind, a mobile application for work-related discussions among verified employees, the nurse had complained of a headache and then collapsed while working in the early hours of July 24. After she was examined, it was found that she had suffered a brain hemorrhage, but the hospital with over 2,700 beds had no neurosurgeon available to perform an emergency surgery; so, she had to be taken to the Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) instead, where she was pronounced dead. Most of the AMC’s doctors were away attending forums, with only a few on night shifts. The incident has shocked the public as the AMC is among the top five hospitals in Korea. Problems plaguing the Korean medical community had already been highlighted many times, and now, this incident has brought them to the fore.

Not just the medical community, the nurse’s death has sent shockwaves in political circles as well. Some lawmakers have demanded that the government should investigate the incident, while civic groups have urged the government to penalize the AMC under the Serious Accidents Punishment Act. Medical workers have said that the shortage of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and specialists is a major limitation in the Korean healthcare system—nearly 90% of ICU beds at most tertiary hospitals in Korea are full. In a YouTube news video, Professor Bang Jae-seung, a professor of neurosurgery at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH), said, “The issue is that there are only two professors of cerebrovascular surgery at the AMC.” Certain fields are preferred because the work is less intense and the pay higher. This has led to a shortage of medical staff in certain fields, leading to several such incidents.

Despite its world-class standards, there have been repeated calls for the structural examination of the Korean healthcare system. In particular, the nurse’s tragic death has underscored the urgent need to address the shortage of medical staff in surgical areas that medical students and young doctors tend to avoid. Experts argue that the problem cannot be solved just by increasing the number of seats in medical schools or establishing a government-run medical school. To ensure cooperation and coordination between doctors and nurses and prevent such incidents in the future, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) must find practical solutions; it must take more fundamental actions to address the shortage of doctors and medical staff in certain fields. It would not be far-fetched to say that this is a matter of life and death, and so, the medical community and government should work together to find a solution at the earliest.


By Kim Ji-yeon, AG Reporter

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