[MINORITY VOICE] Med Techs Need Professional Conditions

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[MINORITY VOICE] Med Techs Need Professional Conditions

Only About 13,000 Of 30,000 Licensed Medical Technologists Are Employed in the Field

Immediately after I arrived at the office one morning I got a phone call from the father of a new graduate. His son had majored in medical technology and passed the government examination for his medical technologist license, but still could not get a job. So the father phoned me to help his son get a job. I ended the conversation by saying that the association would search out a place for his son, but these pleading phone calls never cease coming.

Some time ago, a major hospital in Seoul employed medical technologists at a monthly wage of 600,000 won with night work and extra duties, which became a problem. Medical technologists demanded improvement in the poor working conditions but the hospital responded to their demands by dismissing them.

It is nothing new that medical technologists face hardships in getting jobs. Even if they do succeed in getting one, they have to endure poor working conditions and have no job security. Of course these problems are due to the oversupply of medical technologists. There are many people willing to work at a very low salary. The hospitals abuse this situation. An accounting clerk who graduated from high school receives a monthly salary of at least 800,000 won but the monthly pay for medical technologists who graduated from a three or a four-year college course is only 600,000 won.

High-tech equipment which is able to conduct several tests at the same time is constantly being improved, and outsourced testing firms are expanding. But compared with 10 years ago, the entrance quotas at colleges have increased tremendously and there are too many medical technologists. There is also a problem with unlicensed medical technologists. The duties of medical technologists are clinical specimen testing, direct testing of the human body and radioactive isotope examination. Clinical specimen testing includes urine, blood and cellular testing. Direct testing includes examination of lung function, electrocardiogram and brain waves. But in small hospitals and clinics, many unlicensed medical technologists operate electrocardiograms and do lung function testing. In military hospitals private soldiers, who have received only 10 weeks of education, do clinical pathological testing. At the Red Cross Blood Center and special health diagnosis institutions, unlicensed examinations are being conducted. These unlicensed operations degrade the quality of the testing, which result in damage to public health and rob medical technologists of job opportunities. The outsourcing of medical technologists' functions is also a problem; many hospitals can save half the cost of their medical testing by outside firms which perform the jobs at very low cost.

There are about 30, 000 people who have medical technologist licenses. Among them, about 13,000 people work in the field. The rest are waiting for jobs or are working outside their fields. To solve these problems, the current entrance quotas of colleges should be reduced drastically. Controlling entrance quotas is necessary to guarantee employment after graduation.

Second, unlicensed medical technologists should not be allowed to work in the profession to guarantee quality work.

Third, abuses by outside laboratories, hospitals and clinics should be eliminated. Outsourced work at low prices is charged to patients and the National Health Insurance at full prices.

Fourth, due to the fast development of medical biotechnology and applied medical mechanism, enhanced specialties in performing testing duties are in demand. Converting medical technology departments at colleges into a four-year course should be useful in reducing the entrance quota and strengthening the specialty.

We medical technologists want to work as medical specialists not only in the general hospitals but also at smaller medical institutes and private clinics. This demand should not be ignored any longer.

The writer is the head official of the Korean Association of Medical Technologists.

by Han Young-rok

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