More than 400 physicians rallied on the street in central Seoul over the weekend, demanding the government help root out violence against medical workers. The gathering came after a patient assaulted an emergency room (ER) doctor in Iksan, North Jeolla Province, early last week.
The Korean Medical Association (KMA) led the rally in front of the National Police Agency in Seodaemun-gu, Sunday.
Other medical groups such as the Korean Dental Association (KDA), the Korean Nurses Association (KNA), and the Korean Licensed Practical Nurses Association (KLPNA) joined the demonstration to express concerns over the recent attack on the ER doctor. They called for the vigorous enforcement of the law and the improvement of the regulatory system.
Participants started to gather at 1:30 p.m., carrying pickets with phrases such as “Violence in medical institutions threatens patients’ lives,” “Revise the law to punish the aggressor harshly,” “Repeated assaults on doctors endanger the public health,” “Come up with measures to protect physicians for the public health,” and “Nullify the health insurance rights of the offender who attacked the doctor.”
|Choi Dae-zip, president of the KMA|
Choi Dae-zip, president of the KMA, said he felt miserable as a representative of the medical community to witness such serious violence at an ER in Iksan.
“I feel frustrated because we don’t know for how long such indiscriminate attacks on healthcare workers will continue in medical institutions where medical staffs cannot afford a delay to save a patient’s life,” Choi said.
Although the current law punishes an attacker on a physician more harshly than others in violent acts, brutality against physicians is becoming more dangerous, Choi noted.
“People are not fully aware how serious assaults on medical staffs are because the police respond inadequately and prosecutors and courts punish them too lightly,” he added.
Choi emphasized that anyone who neglects the life and health rights of other patients and exercises indiscriminate violence and verbal abuse to medical staffs must face strong criminal punishment, by law and principle.
“We medical groups should join forces to respond to violence in medical institutions actively,” Choi said. “I demand the authorities apply zero tolerance policy to those who assault a medical worker indiscriminately. I also hope that the ‘investigation manual for healthcare violence cases’ could be completed as soon as possible to investigate the perpetrator in custody.”
Choi went on to say Korea should delete the provisions of fines and penalty subject to consent in Medical Service Act and Emergency Medical Service Act, to strengthen punishment. At the same time, a new law should be made to declare that any violence is tolerated in a medical institution, he added.
Lee Cheol-ho, chair of the KMA’s executive board of trustees, called for people’s participation in the signing of an online petition on Cheong Wa Dae to stop the violence in hospitals.
“Violence should never be allowed to make ERs come to a stop because emergency medicine is the utmost significant area to protect public health. It is not because there are medical workers in the ER but because there are people who save patients there. There are rights of other patients to survive,” Lee said.
|The Korean Medical Association leads a rally of the entire medical community in front of the National Police Agency in central Seoul, Sunday, to put an end to violence in medical institutions.|
The Korean Society of Emergency Medicine (KSEM) said the entire society should work together to prevent violence within medical institutions.
“There are too many verbal abuses and assaults in the ER and a day hardly passes without a drunkard making a scene. This is the reality of Korean ERs,” said Lee Kyung-won, the policy director of the KSEM.
Other groups of dentists and nurses such as the KDA and the KNA also voiced concerns over the recent Iksan incident, supporting the KMA’s move.
Kim Cheol-soo, president of the KDA, recalled a shocking incident in 2011 when a patient killed a dentist.
“Every year, the medical industry has demanded the government take measures to prevent people from assaulting physicians. However, it is still deplorable that the Korean medical care system cannot protect the safety of doctors and patients,” Kim said. “We should not neglect such incident anymore. We, the group of more than 30,000 dentists, will stand with the entire medical community until violence in medical institutions is completely rooted out.”
Hong Ok-nyeo, president of the KLPNA, said nursing assistants should help collect more than 200,000 signatures for the online petition to demand a response from the Korean presidential office.
“We, the group of more than 710,000 nursing assistants will work together with physicians to end the violence in medical institutions,” she said.
After the remarks of encouragement and comments for solidarity, the KMA showed videos revealing various assault cases in medical institutions.
Watching the clips, participating doctors shouted chants and urged the government to enforce laws and improve the medical system strictly.
They also used their smartphones to join the online petition on Cheong Wa Dae to thoroughly investigate the Iksan case and prevent a similar incident.
In the meantime, Jeonju District Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for the attacker in Iksan, saying “the seriousness of the crime is significant, and there is a concern of escape.”
The offender was expected to be transferred to Gunsan prison on Monday.
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