Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said Wednesday newly employed doctors and nurses would have to go through tuberculosis screening within a month of starting work starting in September.
KCDC will impose a fine of 2 million won ($1,770) on medical staffs who do not receive tuberculosis screening within a month of employment. The state agency also issued a recommendation for medical workers that come in contact with newborns to wear masks.
The KCDC issued the recent changes a year and a half after the government announced its “Tuberculosis Safe Country” project in March last year.
Industry experts believe the mass latent tuberculosis infection at Monet Women’s Hospital located in Nowon-gu, northern Seoul, had a significant impact. Authorities traced the outbreak to a 34-year-old nurse who began work at the neonatal room last November. Doctors diagnosed the nurse with active tuberculosis last month.
An investigation later revealed that a total of 118 out of 694 infants who had come in contact with the nurse had become carriers of latent tuberculosis. Although latent tuberculosis bacterium is not contagious, it hibernates with a 10 percent chance of developing into active disease.
Further investigations uncovered the nurse did not undergo examinations for tuberculosis after employment.
Medical institutions had since last August worked towards preventive measures by mandating annual tuberculosis screenings. However, the reform had little impact for the contaminated nurse, as she had worked for less than a year. Industry experts cite loopholes between old and new laws led to the recent outbreak.
KCDC announced plans to follow up with the victims of Monet Hospital for five years to support treatment and struck agreements with insurance associations to prevent discriminatory treatment when victims sign up for insurance.
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