Infant deaths at Ewha hospital re-illuminate poor infection control

Korea Biomedical Review  Published 2017.12.27  12:53  Updated 2017.12.27 12:53


- Top 10 Medical News ④

The year 2017 started with the ousting of former President Park Geun-hye, a snap presidential election in May, and the inauguration of President Moon Jae-in. The medical community has spent the year adapting to new changes as well as fighting against old evils. More hospitals started to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to their medical care. Some others attempted to resolve the issue of “3-minute doctors’ consultation time” and improve medical service quality. Violence and sexual harassment by senior physicians against trainee doctors and nurses, still prevalent in hospitals, have become a social issue this year. The following are medical community’s top 10 news items in 2017, selected by Korea Biomedical Review. – Ed.

The death of four newborns at Ewha Womans University Medical Center’s (EUMC) intensive care unit has re-illuminated the poor infection control in hospitals. The case drew attention as all four infants went into cardiac arrest at EUMC’s neonatal intensive care unit on Dec. 16 and died in less than two hours.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) revealed that that three of the four babies had the same antibiotic-resistant strain of Citrobacter freundii on Dec. 18. Six days later, authorities additionally detected Citrobacter freundii in nutritional injections administered to the newborns.

After the reports were made public, experts claimed there was a high possibility that the cause of death was the contaminated fluid of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the infusion solution given to the infants.

EUMC is under investigation by the police, and the government has suspended all redesignation of general hospitals pending the investigation. The suspension is the first time since the government introduced the system. The Ministry of Health and Welfare plans to provide safety measures based on the results of the current safety checkups of the neonatal intensive care unit.

The infant death at EUMC has also highlighted once again the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in 2015. During the MERS incident, the National Assembly criticized the KCDC for lack of countermeasures against the epidemic. Although the government has enacted various infection control measures since the incident, the medical field, including the neonatal intensive care units, is still suffering from medical personnel shortages.

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