The Korea Herald


Daegu hospitals who refused teen patient to face punishment

By Lim Jae-seong

Published : May 4, 2023 - 16:41

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Kyungpook National University Hospital in Bukgu, Daegu (KNUH) Kyungpook National University Hospital in Bukgu, Daegu (KNUH)

Four general hospitals in Daegu are to be penalized by the Ministry of Health and Welfare for refusing to accept a severely injured teenager on March 19, which led to the girl’s death after two hours of driving from hospital to hospital in an ambulance.

The ministry determined that the hospitals -- Daegu Fatima Hospital, Keimyung University Dongsan Hospital, Kyungpook National University Hospital and Daegu Catholic University Medical Center -- unreasonably refused to treat an emergency patient. The ministry said Thursday it had suspended subsidies to the hospitals for six months, totaling 220 million won ($167,000) for KNUH and 4.8 million won for the others.

The hospitals were also ordered to come up with measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again and to penalize the staff responsible for the incident. The first two hospitals which refused to accept the victim, DFH and KNUH, were fined 36 million won and 16 million won respectively.

South Korean Emergency Medical Service Act bans medical personnel from refusing patients without justifiable grounds. Eleven experts in emergency medicine, health policy and law participated in the decision as to whether the hospitals violated the law.

The girl, 17, fell from a four-story building at 2:15 p.m. and sustained injuries to her head and right ankle. She was conscious when rescued, according to local media reports.

She was sent to the DFH's emergency room 20 minutes after the incident, but the hospital refused to take the patient, saying that the patient is required to get a psychiatric diagnosis, which the hospital was unable to offer.

The ambulance then headed to the ER of KNUH only to be told to contact the Regional Trauma Center of the same hospital, which also refused to accept her two times due to a lack of space.

However, the experts found that KNUH had one vacant bed and most of the other patients at the trauma center were in relatively less critical condition at the time.

KUDH was also found to have refused the patient, saying that they were carrying out another emergency surgery, while DCUMC declined to take the patient citing the absence of their neurosurgical personnel.

After being denied by KUDH and DCUMC, the victim suffered cardiac arrest at 4:30 p.m. The ambulance crew carried out CPR but she was declared dead at DCUMC.

The rescuers and fire authority personnel called nearly every hospital in the city with a 2.5 million population but could not find any that would accept the patient, Daegu Fire Department officials said to the local media on March 29.

Yeungnam University Hospital, Nazareth General Hospital, Samil Hospital and Barobon Hospital, all in Daegu, did also not accept the ambulance’s request but the inspection team accepted their reasons that they lacked the beds or the capacity to treat a severely injured patient.