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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Feb. 9)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 09:42 February 09, 2019

A doctor's legacy
Overworked medical center chief dies during holidays

The sudden death earlier this week of Yoon Han-deok, chief of the National Emergency Medical Center, has left a void in the hearts of many Koreans following the Lunar New Year holidays.

The cause of the death is known to be heart attack. He was 51 years old. When he was found Monday by his colleagues and his family, he was seated at his desk. It was after hours but he continued to remain in his office to be on standby for any emergency during the holidays. The National Emergency Medical Center is responsible for managing more than 500 emergency centers nationwide.

The late doctor worked tirelessly to improve the quality of emergency medical treatment. President Moon Jae-in paid tribute to him on his Facebook page, lauding his devotion to his profession. "For him, saving people's lives and safety came before himself and his family even during the holidays."

Han was considered a pioneer in his field, having introduced new procedures to effectively treat emergency patients over his 25 years as a doctor. He joined the National Emergency Medical Center in 2002 after graduating from Chonnam National University Medical School. The renowned surgeon Lee Guk-jong, chief of Ajou University Hospital's trauma center, remembered the late Han as a "pillar" of the emergency medicine community.

His death comes only about a month after another shocking death of a doctor earlier last month when a psychiatrist was stabbed to death by a patient during a consultation. This had prompted concerns about the working conditions of doctors. According to a recently survey by the Korean Society of Emergency Medicine, more than 60 percent of emergency medical staff have experience some kind of assault on the job.

In Yoon's case, the problem seems to have been overwork more than anything else. His death shows the extreme working conditions for staff at emergency medical centers. Overworked doctors who do not have enough time to take care of themselves will have a difficult time performing their job properly. A tired physician cannot possibly be able to serve patients to their fullest. Hospitals and emergency centers should ensure that their staff work reasonable hours.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon paid his respects to the deceased Friday and offered his condolences to the bereaved family members. On his SNS, he said the government will push for a reinforcement of public medical services, particularly emergency medical systems.

Han's death is a huge loss to the entire Korean medical community. The government should honor his legacy by preparing measures to raise the efficiency of emergency medical systems.

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