Physicians urged measures to prevent hospital-acquired infections, in the wake of the recent deaths of newborns at Ewha Womans University Medical Center caused by a bacterial infection.
As young children are more vulnerable to nosocomial infections, both medical institutions and the government should work together with pediatricians to minimize preventable infections, pediatricians said.
The Korean Pediatric Society held a special lecture session on improving management of hospital-associated infections at the Spring Academic Conference at the Hotel Inter Burgo Daegu, on Friday.
Lee Sang-il, a professor at preventive medicine department of Ulsan University’s College of Medicine, said half of the medical mishaps were preventable, emphasizing that medical staffs should make an endless effort to reduce such risk.
Moreover, the current medical system should be overhauled because the system does not guarantee the anonymity of medical staffs who report a medical error such as hospital infection, but instead blame them for the blunder, according to Lee.
“One out of 10 hospital patients experience a medical mishap. Medical errors cause about 7.4 percent of hospital deaths,” Lee said. “However, nearly half of medical errors, or 43.5 percent, are preventable.”
“A hospital itself can be very dangerous and error-prone. We need efforts to reduce such risk. It is important to make efforts to prevent an incident, discover it quickly to reduce the damage, and to speed up follow-up measures,” he added.
Lee stressed the importance of reporting of hospital infections.
“Doctors don’t report well maybe because they are busy. But most of them feel embarrassed or worried about a reprimand. Even if they do report, they think nothing will change,” Lee said. “We should encourage reporting rather than punishing or reprimanding."
Lee emphasized that physicians should report incidents quickly and accurately, analyze problems, find improvement measures, and receive education and training in their hospitals.
“If a physician is reporting about an incident, we should ask ‘why,’ rather than ‘who.’ Not to allow a similar case of the Ewha incident to occur, we should discover problems in hospital systems and fix them,” Professor Lee added.
Other experts said the government should give massive support and legal backup to control pediatric medical infections.
Park Eun-cheol, a professor of preventive medicine at Yonsei University’s College of Medicine, said doctors were facing conflicting values between their will to save patients and the hospital director’s needs to reduce cost and expenditure. Thus, the government should provide financial support for emergency rooms and intensive care units (ICUs), he said.
“Out of the 67 trillion won ($62.1 billion) budget of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, only 4 percent, or 2.4 trillion won is allocated for public health. Among them, only 400 billion won is spent on support for emergency rooms and ICUs,” Professor Park said. “Rather than tightening regulations on ICUs, the government should offer much more support for ICUs.”
Park questioned how much effort the government has made to enhance the support for the medical community. “While they were emphasizing medical ethics, were their policies ethical? Our system should be ethical, too,” Park added.
To improve the overall medical system, the KPS said it would submit ideas of short-term overhaul measures to the government and always discuss the matter to manage infections and protect patients’ safety.
“We feel partially responsible for the Ewha incident. We have been growing both in quantity and quality for pediatric treatments, but our efforts could have been insufficient to protect patients and manage hospital infections,” said Choi Byung-min, director of insurance affairs at KPS.
The KPS said it was time to come up with measures to prevent further medical mishaps and introduced its progress on working on the issue.
The group also explained about how to raise funds to support Ewha medical staffs who were arrested for the investigation of the newborns’ deaths.
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