The Korean medical community started the year 2019 began with sad news. Yoon Han-deok, chief of the National Emergency Medical Center at the National Medical Center, was found dead at his office during the New Year holidays.
He was supposed to visit his hometown with his family during the holiday, but his family lost contact with him. His wife and a hospital employee visited his office and found Yoon dead, who was seated in front of his desk.
Not only physicians but politicians and even President Moon Jae-in expressed condolences for Yoon, who worked hard on improving the emergency medicine system during the national holidays.
Yoon’s death cast light on his horrible working conditions as well as his commitment and efforts to enhance the quality of emergency medical services.
Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service recognized the cause of his death as "acute cardiac arrest due to high cardiovascular hardening." They regarded his death as an industrial accident. It was also found that Yoon worked for 119 hours a week on average.
In August, the Ministry of Health and Welfare decided to designate Yoon as “the special contributor to national social development who died at his post of duty.”
However, advancing the quality of emergency medical services that Yoon wanted during his life remains as a task for the medical community.
The death of a trainee doctor at the Pediatrics Department of Gachon University Gil Medical Center also raised the issue of physicians’ overwork.
The second-year trainee physician was found dead at the night duty room on the morning of Feb. 1. The Korean Intern Resident Association claimed that he worked 100 hours a week on average, and the overwork of trainee doctors became a social issue.
After the enforcement of the Medical Residents Act, which limits weekly working hours for medical residents to 80, some hospitals are taking side way measures by giving resting time only on papers, some said. Their allegations showed that trainee doctors still suffered from poor working conditions.
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