Via The Korea Herald: After MERS, Korea vows hospital culture reform. Excerpt:
Seoul announced that it will make efforts to change the nation’s hospital culture, which involves family members staying with patients in hospital rooms as main caretakers, after declaring a “de facto end” to the outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome Tuesday.
“We now confirm that the citizens can worry no more (about the possible infection),” Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said, announcing that the outbreak in South Korea is practically over.
“I ask the public to shake off all your worries (over MERS) and return to your normal lives, enjoying economic, cultural, leisure and academic activities.”
The current hospital system, in which family members provide basic care normally carried out by nursing staff in other developed nations, has been largely blamed for the MERS spread, which has claimed 36 lives here since May. Many Koreans who contracted the virus did so while caring for their family members at MERS-affected hospitals.
In its efforts to prevent hospital-acquired infections, the Health Ministry will now require all visitors at medical facilities to register at the entrance. The ministry is also thinking of ways to minimize the number of visitors -- those who come in for the sole purpose of visiting or caring for inpatients -- to hospitals.
“We certainly think that there should be a new system which prevents hospitals from receiving too many visitors all at once,” said Kwon Deok-cheol, head of the central MERS task force. “It’s important to prevent any infectious virus from entering the country. But we have realized that it is also equally important to build a system that minimizes the risk of hospital-to-hospital transmission.”
Kwon also pointed out the Korean practice of seeking care at multiple hospitals, known as “doctor shopping,” was one of the main factors contributing to the spread of the MERS virus in the country.
“What doctor shopping does is it triggers so many patients living nationwide to seek treatments at large, general hospitals in Seoul,” he said. “Without a new system that regulates the number of visitors, large hospitals will remain vulnerable to hospital-to-hospital transmission as so many people would be exposed to the virus should there be an outbreak of any contagious disease.”
The government also plans to establish a new system that offers full nursing care to include assistance usually provided by patients’ family members, said Kwon.
According to a recent study by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, introducing the system would require the Health Ministry to spend 4.6 trillion won ($3.95 billion) to offer full nursing services at 1,780 hospitals nationwide by 2020, and hire 47,922 more nurses to make it possible.