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Medical staff under pressure amid spiking virus cases in S. Korea

Welfare/Medicine 10:15 March 02, 2020

SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) -- The surge in the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus here is starting to cause serious fatigue among medical personnel, with manpower shortages becoming an issue in some hard-hit areas.

Fatigue among medical staff has been most acute at hospitals designated to handle coronavirus patients only. The large number of patients in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province -- the epicenters of the virus outbreak in South Korea -- has exacerbated the problem.

After reporting its first outbreak on Jan. 20, the total number of infected patients had surged to 3,736 as of late Sunday, with the death toll here hitting 22. Of the total, over 2,700 have been confirmed in Daegu alone, with a total of 555 cases in North Gyeongsang.

Pohang Medical Center said over the weekend that 16 of its 100 nurses have quit due to various personal reasons compounded by overwork.

Medical staff at Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, report for duty in full protective suits, on Feb. 28, 2020. (Yonhap)

The medical center, in the industrial city of Pohang, 375 kilometers southeast of Seoul, said some nurses have not been able to go home for over 10 days, as clinical staff at specially designated hospitals are required to stay at their posts till the situation improves. A local public health official said some nurses who have no one to look after their young children had no choice but to resign.

While the medical center did get 15 replacement nurses, and Pohang city government promised to send 10 medical personnel and administrative support workers, it is on guard for further manpower problems down the line as COVID-19 continues to spread.

The need for more medical personnel was also reported at Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center in Daegu, where the hospital said it was seriously understaffed, with existing doctors and nurses suffering from severe fatigue.

"In particular, the center needs more nurses, as it is planning to increase the number of beds from 240 to 300 to handle more patients," the hospital said.

Reflecting the problems facing frontline medical centers and hospitals, the country is attempting to deal with the issue by sending more state employed doctors and other trained health workers to Daegu and North Gyeongsang.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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