Only 52 out of the total 204 hospitals in Korea are available for consultation services for suicidal patients despite the government’s program to manage at-risk people at emergency departments, government data showed.
One hospital had 45 times more visits by suicidal patients than another, showing a wide gap in services for suicide-attempt survivors.
Rep. Kim Sang-hee of the ruling Democratic Party analyzed the data submitted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
According to Kim, Korea has had the highest suicide rate among the member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for 15 years since 2003. The issue is a grave issue for the country. In 2017, 12,463 people killed themselves in Korea. The number translates into 34 suicidal deaths per day.
To address the issue, the health and welfare ministry has been operating a program since 2013 to manage suicidal patients at emergency rooms at hospitals. As of Monday, the nation has 52 emergency rooms with each one having two physicians to offer consultations for suicidal patients and monitor them.
However, the government system still has many loopholes. The ministry identified 28,278 suicide attempt survivors through reports from 154 emergency rooms under the National Emergency Department Information System (NEDIS) last year. However, the number of suicidal patients identified by the ministry’s suicidal patient management program stood only at 12,264.
Among the 12,264 suicidal patients, only 54.4 percent (6,675 patients) agreed to receive the ministry’s management services after discharge, and another 45.6 percent (5,589) refused to do so.
Also, there was a significant gap between the numbers of visits by suicidal patients among hospitals across the nation.
A university hospital in Incheon, which participates in the ministry’s program, had 721 visits by suicidal patients in 2017. In contrast, a university hospital in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, had only 16 visits.
Emergency rooms were in desperate need of additional consultants.
A consultant at an emergency room met 146 suicidal patients on average in 2017, more than four times the 2013 number of 35.5. However, an emergency room still has only two consultants now.
“For Korea to shed off its disgraceful image as a ‘suicide republic,’ the government needs to monitor suicide attempt survivors with budget support thoroughly and prevent them from attempting suicide again,” Kim said. “The number of suicidal patients under the ministry’s management is minimal, compared to the actual number. The government should expand the suicidal patient management program as the nation lacks emergency rooms that can offer consultation for suicidal patients.”
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