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Alarms, emergency exits alone cannot protect physicians: expert
  • By Kwak Sung-sun
  • Published 2019.01.09 15:53
  • Updated 2019.01.09 15:53
  • comments 0

The latest killing of psychiatrist Lim Se-won by a patient at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital was not a rare case in the psychiatry department, an expert told lawmakers who gathered to enhance protection of medical professionals at hospitals.

Kwon Jun-soo, president of the Korean Neuropsychiatric Association, emphasized that the society needs to come up with fundamental solutions to prevent such a tragic incident.

After Lim’s death, hospitals are reviewing to install an emergency exit, emergency alarms, and dispatch security officers to prevent violence against medical staffs.

(From left in the front row) Korean NeuroPsychiatric Association President Kwon Jun-soo, Kangbuk Samsung Hospital President Shin Ho-cheol, and Korean Medical Association President Choi Dae-zip participate in the meeting of the National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee as witnesses on Wednesday.

However, whether such tools will be effective remains questionable because Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, where psychiatrist Lim Se-won was murdered, already had them in place.

The National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee held a general meeting on Wednesday to hear the medical community’s opinion regarding the death of the psychiatrist.

Kwon, who attended the meeting as a witness, said although Lim’s case highlighted what was happening at psychiatrist departments, such violent incidents by mentally ill patients occur frequently.

“Only one out of 10 cases at psychiatrist department is reported to the hospital. Even if a patient commits a crime, most people think the patient needs treatment, not reporting,” Kwon said. “If a case is reported, it means the issue is grave.”

The hospital finds it difficult to prevent such violent case because of the lack of workforce and nurses at mental health wards, Kwon noted.

“After a patient is discharged and register for the local community’s care, the patient does not receive proper care. We need a comprehensive plan, not just a couple of stopgap measures,” he added.

He also stressed that people should resolve the issue of social prejudice against the mentally ill.

Usually, people with mental health problems cannot buy private insurance policies and miss the timing for early treatment because of people’s prejudice, he said. “The patient (who killed Lim) lived apart from his parents because of his violence, but the hospital did not know it,” he said.

Kwon suggested lawmakers introduce a legal system where hospitalization of mentally ill patients is not up to patients or guardians but psychiatrists.

Kangbuk Samsung Hospital President Shin Ho-cheol also attended the meeting as a testifier. Shin raised the need for fundamental solutions to ensure the safety of physicians, adding that the hospital’s various emergency measures such as emergency exits, emergency alarms, and security guards could not prevent patients’ violence.

“It may sound like an excuse, but the incidence was unpredictable. Our hospital had emergency bells, evacuation area, and security guards in place,” Shin said. “It took about one minute until a security guard arrived at the crime scene at the call of a nursing assistant. We have to look into the Lim’s case from several aspects.”

Choi Dae-zip, president of the Korean Medical Association, demanded the government raise “medical institution safety management fund” to protect medical staffs.

Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said he would review requesting the state spending on “medical institution safety management fund.”

“We will also thoroughly search for ways to tackle the social prejudice against the mentally ill,” he said.


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