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Medical workers exposed to various abuses
  • By Choi Gwang-seok
  • Published 2017.05.26 10:58
  • Updated 2017.05.26 10:58
  • comments 0

Six out of 10 medical workers have experienced verbal abuse from patients, guardians, and co-workers. And one in 10 workers has suffered from sexual harassment or sexual assaults.

Korean Heath and Medical Workers' Union보건의료노조(KHMU) released these and other results of the survey on medical workers’ working conditions, at a National Assembly meeting Monday, and called for improving their working conditions and expanding jobs.

The union has conducted the survey every year since 2002 on people engaged in all types of jobs at health and medical institutions. A total of 29,545 medical employees took part in this year’s opinion poll.

Korean Heath and Medical Workers' Union announces the results of its annual survey on medical laborers’ working condition at the National Assembly Monday.

According to the result, 57.8 percent of respondents (14,232 of 24,615 valid responders) have experienced verbal abuse from patients, their family members, and colleagues. Patients or blood donors took the largest share of verbal abusers with 36.9 percent, followed by patient guardians, doctors and superiors.

Notably, the number of workers who said they had been subject to sexual harassment or assaults totaled 2,369, out of 20,279 valid respondents. Again, patients or blood donors accounted for the largest proportion of perpetrators with 64.9 percent, chased by doctors (12.4 percent), patients’ guardians (11.3 percent), superiors (6.7 percent) and coworkers (4.7 percent).

However, the most of the victims were not active but passive in dealing with verbal and physical abuses and sexual abuses, the survey showed. In the case of verbal abuses, 82.3 percent of respondent said they “suffered in silence,” and the silent sufferers also accounted for 67.3 percent of victims of physical abuses and 75.9 percent of the victims of sexual assaults. Only 1.4 percent of verbal abuse victims said they “solved the problem through legal countermeasures or institutional devices,” and the comparable shares for physical abuses and sexual assaults also stood at a mere 4.3 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.

Nearly 73 percent of medical laborers worked overtime for one hour and 23.9 minutes a day an average. This is equivalent to 47 hours a week on average based on the five-day workweek, compared with the average of 40 working hours as stipulated in the Labor Standard Law.

Only 14.5 percent received “full compensation” for overtime work with 56.2 percent getting “no compensation,” and 29.3 receiving “partial compensation.”

Those who skipped one or more meals a week because of work totaled 14,176 in number, or 48.8 percent of 29,052 valid responders. The average meal time – including moving and resting time – were less than 20 minutes for 35.3 percent of respondents, 20-30 minutes for 32.4 percent, indicating 67.7 percent of workers spent less than half an hour for lunch.

Women accounted for the overwhelming majority in the healthcare field, but maternity protection was rather weak. Almost 18 percent of those surveyed, or 4,926 out of 27,720 valid responders, said they experienced disadvantages caused by pregnancy, childbirth, and maternity leave, and 24.5 percent stated that they couldn’t use the leave. Among women who experienced pregnancy and childbirth over the past three years, 30.5 percent said they didn't have autonomy in becoming pregnant.

As to why they could not get pregnant on their own, 53 percent cited concerns about aggravating workload on coworkers. Among the rest, 19 percent said there were many female workers in their offices also wanting to get pregnant, 12.8 percent said the office atmosphere was not free enough to get pregnant and 11.8 percent said their employers would not hire more Nearly half (48.5 percent) of women worked overtime even during pregnancy with 17.9 percent (499 workers) working at night.

Because of these poor working conditions, their satisfaction with work was very low, and 16,702 employees said they had considered quitting over the past three months. Primary reasons for leaving were poor working conditions and heavy workload (40.1 percent), followed by low wage leve3ls (15.7 percent), office culture and human relationship (9.1 percent), changing to other jobs or occupations (6.7 percent) and bearing and rearing children (5.9 percent).

Their satisfaction with job security was quite high with 72.9 percent, however. On the other hand, medical workers’ satisfaction with wage levels and promotion were very low with 37.5 percent and 35.1 percent, respectively.

Noting that most of these problems, such as poor working conditions, weak maternity protection, highly emotional labor, and threat to work safety, are related to the shortage of workforce, the union said, “The industry can solve them all by replenishing more workers and easing the labor shortage.”

While calling for the government to come up with a bold countermeasure to resolve the workforce shortage issue, the union went on to say, “The government should implement policies to solve the problems, not leaving it to medical institutions. Given this was one of President Moon Jae-in’s campaign promises, we hope the new government keeps the promise.”


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