After doctor’s complaint, trauma service begun

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After doctor’s complaint, trauma service begun

Just a week after the JoongAng Ilbo reported on the lack of proper trauma services in Korea, the Gyeonggi provincial government yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with Lee Guk-jong, a trauma doctor at Ajou University Hospital in Suwon, Gyeonggi, that says the government will launch a system in which helicopters will transport doctors to trauma patients immediately after an accident.

“The project, dubbed the ‘Seok Hae-gyun Project’ (named after the heroic captain of the Samho Jewelry ship), will be a stepping stone to advance the Korean medical system,” Lee said. “We had only empty talks over the past decade, but now it has become realized.”

The MOU says that if rescue teams or the six hospitals run by the Gyeonggi government ask for a helicopter from the Gyeonggi Fire Service, the service will immediately send a helicopter to Ajou Hospital to transport Lee or other trauma specialists to the scene of the accident or to another hospital. When the patient gets picked up, he or she will be able to get treatment from medical staff.

The JoongAng Ilbo interviewed Lee on April 8, who in February saved the life of Seok, after he was injured in a high-seas pirate attack. During the interview, Lee criticized the lack of a proper patient transportation system in Korea and argued that even if he wanted to ask fire officials for a helicopter he needed to make an official request.

After the report, President Lee Myung-bak ordered a system be launched to treat trauma patients. The Gyeonggi provincial government implemented the request yesterday.

“We have tested this project three times using a helicopter and all of the patients survived,” Dr. Lee said. “A patient injured in Ansan, Gyeonggi, told me, ‘I felt like I had been treated like an action movie star from Hollywood.’”

An AW139 helicopter will be used for the project and will be equipped with first-aid equipment, Lee said.

“Seok agreed to the purpose of the project and allowed the use of his name for the project,” a Gyeonggi government official said

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the number of patients who died of traumatic injury in 2007 was 28,359, and 32.6 percent could have survived if they had been treated earlier.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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