Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Korean healthcare still sucks

Disturbing news from Ewha Women's* University Medical Center: four newborns—unrelated, I surmise, although the article doesn't make this explicit—have died within two hours of each other, all of cardiac arrest. I originally saw this news over at the typo-prone ROK Drop (where "Due" has finally been corrected to "Die" in the blog post's headline, but "Ewha" is still written as "Ewa"); I clicked the link and read the full article over at the English edition of the Joongang Ilbo. The hospital director has made apologetic noises; the article notes that other neonates have been shunted to different hospitals (ostensibly as an infection-control precaution), and that an investigation is under way.

Authorities requested the National Forensic Service conduct autopsies on the four dead infants to find out the cause of their deaths. The autopsies are scheduled to be held Monday morning.

The public health center of Yangcheon District, western Seoul, where the hospital is located, began an epidemiological investigation of the deaths Sunday morning.

Some of the possibilities for the deaths being discussed by some experts include lung conditions, necrotizing enterocolitis - an intestinal infection that is known to be fatal to prematurely-born infants - bacterial infection at the intensive care unit, or failure of medical equipment at the unit.

All four infants were born prematurely and were being treated at the intensive care unit for underlying illnesses, the hospital said.

If I'm reading the above correctly, the babies in question were already suffering from "underlying illnesses" before the cardiac arrests occurred. Assuming I'm right, and the infants were unrelated, we can probably rule out genetic factors in the babies' deaths. That pretty much leaves us with extremely shoddy hospital care as the culprit, although there are, admittedly, other possibilities to consider. That said, think about it: four different children of completely different backgrounds all die of cardiac arrest within two hours of each other? I'll be curious to see what, if anything, the investigation turns up. Alas, my inner cynic doesn't trust that the investigation will be run any more competently than EWU's hospital apparently is. It'll be a surprise if a definite cause is found in a timely manner. Personally, I'm betting on ambiguity, obfuscation, finger-pointing, and an aversion to taking responsibility for this tragedy. And none of this does anything to reassure me that Korean healthcare has improved over the past few years. Meantime, I'm betting on MRSAnosocomial infection—as the killer in this sad and sordid mystery.

*Ungrammatically written as "Ewha Womans University." There's supposedly a historical reason for this allegedly deliberate misspelling, but it's still a painful misspelling to behold.

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