KHMU INFO <6> The Majority of Health and Medical Workers (80.5%) say, “Manpower is in Short Supply.”

by 교선실장 posted Sep 01, 2015


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KHMU INFO <6> September 1, 2015

The Majority of Health and Medical Workers (80.5%) say, “Manpower is in Short Supply.”

Working hours per week average 49.8 hours, while the average lunch break is only 30 minutes.

One out of two hospital workers experience verbal abuse.

KHMU proposes a solution for verbal violence: The 3R Campaign – respect to patients, workers and labor.



3R Campaign is in process in one of the KHMU branches

On August 11, three national assemblymen from opposition parties and the Korea Health and Medical Workers’ Union (KHMU, President Yoo Ji-hyun) jointly organized a conference entitled <Hospital Workers’ Working Situation and the Roadmap for the 3R Campaign>.


Every year, KHMU conducts a survey of its union members with regards to their working situation in hospitals. This year, a total of 18,629 union members in 83 medical institutions nationwide participated in the survey from April through May.


Survey results indicate that hospital workers’ working hours average 10.6 hours per day and 49.8 hours per week, which is 7.9 hours longer than the average (41.9 hours per week) of Korean workers as a whole. Rolling it up to yearly working hours, working hours total a 2,589 hour difference. Weekly working hours in Korea have been shortened to 41.9 hours in March 2015 from 47.8 hours in the same month of 2004. By contrast, hospital workers work even longer in 2015 (49.8 hours per week) than in 2008 (45.8 hours). The 40 hour Workweek was legislated in 2004, but hospital workers still work substantial overtime.


A shortage of manpower in hospitals has led to the lengthening of working hours. According to the survey, 8 out of 10 respondents (80.5%) mentioned a shortage of manpower in hospitals, which has resulted in many health problems for workers as well as aggravating working conditions: health problems (65.7%), job stresses (54.2%), exposure to diseases (67.6%), and unused leave (holidays) (67.5%). Subsequently, patients’ safety—given the public nature of medical services—and service quality are compromised: lower quality of services (81.1%) and a less friendly and welcoming attitude toward patients (80.6%), neglected necessary medical services (74.1%), and increased frequency of medical accidents (47.4%). Even worse, under the circumstances, hospital personnel have to prepare for trainings and evaluation audits of medical institutions by working overtime.


In the case of nurses, break time including a meal break is 30.2 minutes on average per day. They skip meals an average of 5.5 times per month. The survey confirms that the rumor, “nurses do not eat rice but drink it like water” is happening in real life situations.


Hospital workers are also vulnerable to verbal abuse, physical violence, sexual harassment and other unpleasant treatment by patients, caregivers and doctors. Around 50% of respondents (8,694) were found to have experienced verbal abuse, while sexual harassment and sexual violence were experienced by 9.6% (1,556) and 0.4% (62) of the hospital workers, respectively.


Patients verbally abuse hospital workers the most (33.4%), followed by caregivers (29.4%). Yet, doctors (16%) and supervisors (14%) were also reported as abusers. Around 5.4% (990) said patients assaulted them, while 5.3% (994) experienced sexual harassment by patients. Taken together, the survey shows how serious the violence against workers is in hospitals.


As of 2015, the average number of successive working years (for hospital personnel)is only 9 years. The nurses’ average is even shorter: 7.4 years. Such substandard working conditions and low satisfaction with their workplace motivates a majority of workers to seek other jobs. In the latest survey, the number of respondents noting that they are thinking of a job change increased to 62%, up 8% from 54% last year.


“When I was an in-service nurse 26 years ago, I had to finish meals within 6 minutes. And even now, 26 years later, nurses work in almost the same conditions. Hospitals are extremely understaffed, while verbal abuse, assault and sexual harassment of nurses remain to be solved. We need to bring about a fundamental change. To this end, we are running the 3R Campaign,” said President Yoo.


This year, at KHMU, we have been actively running the 3R campaign: respect to patients, respect to employees and respect to labor. As part of the campaign, we will also promote the needs of safe hospitals: hospitals free from verbal abuse, assault and sexual harassment, and staffing a sufficient number of workers for rational working hours.


The campaign includes open competitions for writing acrostic poems and slogans, badge circulation, reporting dangerous situations in hospitals, awareness raising activities, negotiations with employers, discussions with and interviews of governmental agencies, lobbying activities for lawmaking and many more such endeavors. 


마스코트 최종 3명.jpg

  • Mascot symbolizing 3Rs: respect to labor, respect to patients and respect to workers


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