As South Korea entered into a state of emergency to stem the explosive spreading of the new coronavirus from China, one group of people is emerging as another detonator – Chinese caregivers for the sick.
Most general hospitals major are now going all out to supervise and monitor these care workers, many of whom are Chinese or Korean-Chinese.
"We will tell these caregivers to suspend work until the situation stabilizes," a hospital head told Korea Biomedical Review over the phone. "I also told the caregiver service company not to supply workers from China at least for two weeks."
The hospital is allowing caregivers who came to Korea for more than two weeks ago and passed the screening. It also instructed Korean and Chinese caregivers not to contact each other.
"We are in trouble because we are short of carers, but we were told to do without them given the emergency situation," the hospital director said. "Putting inexperienced workers into the field can cause another problem, so we told the patients to send the caregivers back and ask their family members to help them whenever possible.”
Hospitals are also banning patient visits, asking even registered guardians to refrain from going in and out of hospitals, closing all entrances except the main gate, and checking outpatients.
Another hospital has conducted interviews with caregivers from China to get detailed information about where they live in Korea and whom they had contacted.
The hospital’s head had one-on-one interviews with caregivers and checked whether they have Korean nationality and whether they had contacted Chinese or those who recently visited China. "Some caregivers go out of the hospital with their family, and we told them to wear air masks outside and to wash their hands frequently during work," the director said.
The hospital also advised the patients to refrain from going out of the hospital or receive visitors. "However, such a request has no binding force, and we just hope patients and their guardian voluntarily follow the guidance," the director added.
Yet another hospital said it recommended Chinese caregivers not to visit China or contact people who visited China during the Spring Festival season.
It encouraged all medical workers, such as doctors, nurses, nursing assistants and caregivers, to wear air masks at work.
"Various related organizations, including the Korean Medical Association, the Korean Hospital Association, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local public health center have been issuing all kinds of response manuals," the hospital’s director said. "Faithfully following these manuals is the best we can do at this point to prevent the worst."