KHMU INFO<3> “Save People’s Lives, Protect Workers’ Safety”

by KangYeonbae posted Jun 14, 2015


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KHMU info <3> June, 14, 2015

KHMU, “Save People’s Lives, Protect Workers’ Safety”

As of June 14, 2015,  4,856 Isolated, 145 Confirmed MERS Cases, 14 Died


Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union (KHMU) has kept an eye on the government’s response to the MERS outbreak since the first MERS confirmed case appeared on May 20, 2015. On 29, President Yoo visited the National Medical Center and announced a statement that the government should set up a comprehensive action plan at the state level. KHMU formed a special taskforce team to monitor the situations associated with spread of the respiratory virus nationwide.


On May 30, KHMU noted that the government failed in efficient initial response. It demanded the government to release the list of MERS-affected hospitals and districts and to upgrade the position of the MERS control tower.  


However, the government did not meet the demand. Instead, it announced that those who circulate groundless rumors about the viral disease would be punished.


The KHMU website has been posting updates in the newly built MERS situation board and around 120,000 citizens has so far visited the site. With interest, the press has reported KHMU’s response activities and the union has received a flood of interview requests.  


As more and more infected patients appeared and public criticism is getting bigger, the government eventually came to reveal the list of MERS affected hospitals and associated information for the first time on June 7.


But, such an action by the government only came in 90 days after the first confirmed case was reported and subjects to controls reached 2,000.


This shows that the government’s failure in initial response and easygoing attitude has been worsening the crisis.


Throughout three times of press conferences, KHMU has urged the government to have the Blue House function as a control tower; issue a general mobilization order nationwide; and set up an emergency support system for public healthcare organizations.


A total of 36 out of 122 confirmed cases came from Pyeongtaek St. Mary’s Hospital where the first MERS patient was reported while 68 from Samsung Seoul Hospital, which is run by Samsung Group notorious for union free management. The anti-union hospital currently shifts the responsibility to the government. Regarding this issue, the civil society has requested the government to conduct a broad epidemiologic investigation and control/manage the hospital, rather than defending it.


Under the circumstances, healthcare workers’ safety is more urgent than any other matters. One doctor was already infected, being currently in severe condition. The number of nurses in Korea is only a third of the OECD average. Facing the MERS outbreak, such a small number of nurses cannot help but to work overtime day and night for tens of days in a row.  Worse more, the public hospitals represent only 10% of the total healthcare facilities and private hospitals are unwilling to take MERS patients. Workers in public hospitals even work on installing temporary air -depressing equipment, as low-pressure isolation units are very short in the public facilities.   


Further more, security guards, caregivers and teenagers who are mostly working in irregular job positions are exposed to higher risk in such poor facility conditions. Combining all, KMNU has urged the government to take immediate and comprehensive measures. Also, the union now canceled all other official schedules. Distributing on-site safety manuals to the union members, the national level healthcare workers’ union has made its all-out effort to manage the current crisis under the slogan, “Save People’s Lives, Protect Workers’ Safety.”


To See More, Go To the KHMU Website:


On June 5, KHMU press conference held in KHMU's office


On June 11, KHMU and NGO's press conference held before the Blue House


KHMU President Yoo Ji Hyun


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