Ministry lays out response to disaster at Ewha hospital

Marian Chu  Published 2018.01.23  16:46  Updated 2018.01.23 16:46


The Ministry of Health and Welfare Tuesday announced interim measures for safety maintenance at neonatal intensive care units (NICU), in response to deaths of four infants that occurred at Ewha Womans University Medical Center (EUMC).

Ewha Womans University Medical Center

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“The death of newborns at EUMC has become another reminder of the importance of infectious disease management for medical institutions. The government will thoroughly analyze the cause and make continual systematic improvements so that such incidents do not reoccur,” Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neung-hoo said.

“Because infection control is especially important in the neonatal intensive care unit, we will check the overall medical system to ensure people can visit medical institution with peace of mind,” Park added.

The measures will include a revision of the medical law that makes it mandatory for medical institutions to report on multiple deaths of individuals who exhibit common symptoms and those which occur in a short span of time, to proper health centers.

The revision comes as a response to criticism that EUMC did not report the deaths of four infants at the hospital. Local authorities began investigating the case only after one of the infant’s guardians called the police.

“Even though the infants died from an unknown cause at EUMC, [the hospital] did not report the situation to health authorities,” said Rep. Yoon So-ha, a lawmaker of the splinter opposition Justice Party. “Under the current medical law, mandatory reporting is limited only to when the medical institution suspects an infectious decision using only its own [judgment].”

The ministry also cracked down on unsafe medical practices related to the use of injections and medical devices. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said last month that the newborns died from blood poisoning caused by a Citrobacter freundii bacterial infection. Further investigation showed nurses used one bottle of nutritional therapy to make seven injections for five infants, infecting the babies in the process.

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The ministry will create a system that issues a corrective order to shut down work at a hospital if deaths occurred because of staffs violating hospital protocol.

The ministry will also improve the infrastructure of NICUs, a patient safety system that involves an annual on-site inspection, pricing systems that give financial leeway for hospitals to practice safe infection preventive measures, and new evaluation criteria for measuring the quality and safety of NICUs.

It will announce comprehensive measures for medical infections in the latter half of this year.

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