President Moon Jae-in reemphasized his will to establish a new specialty hospital for firefighters, an idea he had floated since taking office in May. In Korea, there are specialty hospitals to exclusively care for soldiers and police officers but none for firefighters.
Moon announced his plan on specialty hospital for firefighters at an event held on Friday to commemorate the 55th anniversary of Firefighters’ Day, stressing the need to improve working conditions for firefighters.
“At least one firefighter gets an on-the-job injury every day,” the President said. “Their mental health is in danger, too, as seven out of 10 firefighters are going through psychological traumas due to risky works, horrible accident scenes and irregular shifts. More firefighters die by suicide than on the job.”
“We will reinforce the state’s responsibility for firefighters’ health and injuries on the job,” he said. “We will also build ‘integrated healing centers’ where they can prevent physical and psychological injuries. The government will also aggressively seek to establish a new hospital for firefighters.”
A specialty hospital for firefighters is likely to be based on a 2014 feasibility study by Yonsei University’s Graduate School of Public Health. The study suggested that a hospital for firefighters should be a general hospital with at least 300 beds. To quickly treat patients injured on the scene, such hospital should be equipped with an emergency center specialized in treatment for burns and musculoskeletal diseases, a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) center, and a health enhancement center, the study noted.
Currently, a revision bill of the Framework Act on Health, Safety and Welfare of Fire Officers has been proposed to the National Assembly to establish and operate a specialty hospital to exclusively take care of firefighters.
However, some within the medical community oppose to Moon’s plan, saying the authorities should find other ways to improve working conditions for firefighters than trying to establish a hospital for them. They said it would be more effective to raise medical payments for existing hospitals that treat firefighters’ burns and injuries so that more hospitals can provide treatments for firefighters.
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