A patient with mental illness, whose hospitalization was delayed due to Covid-19, attacked a psychiatrist at a hospital in Jeonju, 195 kilometers southwest of Seoul.
The incident was similar to the one 18 months ago when a patient stabbed a psychiatrist, Professor Lim Se-won, to death at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital in Seoul. The Korean Neuropsychiatric Association (KNA) urged the government to draw up measures to prevent violence against psychiatrists.
According to the KNA, the 22-year-old patient visited the psychiatric department of a hospital in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, on Monday and assaulted the female psychiatrist who examined and treated him three months ago.
A security guard immediately stepped in to keep the situation from growing worse. However, the doctor was hospitalized because of injuries in the head and the arm inflicted by the patient’s wielding of a mobile phone. It is unknown why the patient attacked her.
The patient was arrested by the police, who immediately arrived at the scene on the nurse's report. However, he was released and reportedly revisited the hospital on Tuesday. The police had to appear on the scene again and hospitalized him at another mental health institution.
“It is worrisome that a similar incident happened even after a revised medical law was passed to ensure a safe environment for doctors and the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced related measures in the wake of Professor Lim Se-won’s death,” the KNA said.
The association also noted that the arson and killing spree in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, in April occurred because the law enforcement officers failed to take sufficient preventive measures despite frequent complaints by his neighbors.
At the time, the KNA said, the government should build a mental emergency center to support the police’s judgment and follow-up measures.
The National Assembly passed a bill to revise the medical law to establish a mental emergency center. However, the center failed to operate properly and prevent the attacker from visiting the hospital in Jeonju the next day, the KNA said.
“The mental emergency system normally runs only in some regions such as Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, due to the Covid-19 crisis,” the association added.
For doctors and patients' safety, the government should take steps to prevent violence, the KNA emphasized. “We demand the authorities deal with patients’ violent acts with strict measures to prevent secondary and tertiary damage,” the KNA said.
If the authorities fail to come up with the right response, successive assaults by mentally ill patients will reinforce social prejudice against them, and patients with discontinued treatment and support will make society dangerous in a vicious circle, it added.
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