Is the Hospital 'Safe'?
Is the Hospital 'Safe'?
  • Reporter Lee Mi-yeon
  • 승인 2018.12.12 12:08
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Ewha hospital's medical team beg for forgiveness
Ewha hospital's medical team beg for forgiveness


Last year, four premature infants died in the intensive care unit for newborns at Ewha Women’s University Hospital on the night of Dec.16. All suffered cardiac arrests and died within a two-hour span. The Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced that the same type of Citrobacter freundii bacteria found in the IV nutrition was injected into the infants’ veins. Lee Hyung-min, head of the infection management department of KCDC, said “the IV nutrition may have been infected while the medical staff prepared it.” The police summoned a nurse and a nursing assistant and questioned them. However, their testimonies did not yield any evidence of medical malpractice. Possible causes could include viral or bacterial infections, malfunctioning incubators or medical malpractice. Although the KCDC and other health authorities conducted close inspections on the hospitals’ infant intensive care unit, the exact cause has not been identified.
According to a report submitted by the hospitals from July 2016 to September last year, 857 out of 3,060 medical accidents were drug errors. The doctors made 375 mistakes while prescribing injections or medicine, and the nurses made 293 mistakes. There were 83 cases of wrong injections of drugs, and 56 cases of medication injections to the wrong patient. In the event of an accident due to these problems, patients have difficulty in collecting evidence quickly, and it is not fair to ask for a medical record audit from a doctor. In addition, the fact the burden of proof is on patients, and is why their chances of winning the case are around 1%.
However, the medical community is against making an arrest when medical accidents occur even if they are unintentional. They held a rally in November to protest the recent conviction of three doctors who were found guilty of medical malpractice that led to the death of a child. They claim that it was unfair to prosecute the doctors because they could not control unexpected situations. In addition, they demanded the government and the National Assembly to enact a special medical dispute law that would exempt medical practices from criminal punishment. Choi Dae-sup, the president of the Korea Medical Association, said “From now on, all doctors in Korea could face criminal charges for their medical decisions and any of them can be imprisoned for a mishap. Doctors, who are experts, try to gain the best results through their expertise and experience. But sometimes they cannot predict or avoid danger.” “If a high court does not change the decision, it will make doctors perform their duties minimally”, he added. 
As a way to resolve this conflict, it is suggested to divide the responsibility of the medical staff in case of medical accidents by requiring hospitals to have insurance. Currently, this decision is left to the hospital’s autonomy and the opening of relevant evidence is needed. In addition, some claim that structural improvements at medical sites are required to prevent mistakes caused by the high intensity of labor due to manpower shortages. Of course, prior to this, efforts are needed to prevent medical accidents and conflicts by eliminating risk factors such as injection contamination and proxy surgeries. If the safety issues in hospitals continue, people cannot be free from the danger of medical accidents. Both the government and the medical community need to come up with sound fundamental solutions to solve the current problem.

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