Hospital cares for severely ill, abandoned kids

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Hospital cares for severely ill, abandoned kids


Mo Hyun-hee, head of the Seoul Metropolitan Children’s Hospital

Mo Hyun-hee, head of the Seoul Metropolitan Children’s Hospital, believes her hospital is the country’s best when it comes to treating and rehabilitating disabled children.

“The hospital we operate is like a child-care service center for those little ones with severe illnesses that have nowhere to go or no one to look after them,” she said in a recent interview with the JoongAng Ilbo at the hospital in Naegok-dong, southern Seoul.

“Nurses here carry out the role of a mother.”

For the past 20 years, Mo has looked after the city’s public health policy as a public servant before being appointed head of the children’s hospital late last year.

The Children’s Hospital, operated by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, is the country’s only public hospital specializing in treating disabled children.

In general, the hospital looks after children with severe illnesses whose parents have abandoned them.

Two-thirds of children at the hospital are orphans. There are also parents waiting in long lines to receive medical treatment for their disabled children.

Q. Is it true that a child with autism needs to wait four years to receive outpatient treatment?

A. Ever since the hospital opened in 1948, [news of the high quality of treatment] spread through word-of-mouth. I’m confident that the hospital is the country’s best when it comes to treating and rehabilitating disabled children. Apart from treatment services, the hospital also operates separate programs such as art, music and language therapies. There is no other hospital that offers such diverse treatment and therapy services for the young disabled.

Could the popularity of the hospital be due to the relatively low medical fees?

Yes. That is because all of our employees at the hospital are public servants. In fact, the medical fee when treating a child with autism at our hospital is 70,000 won [$62] when three therapists are involved in the 100-minute treatment.

As for other hospitals, if they don’t want to suffer a great loss, they need to receive 450,000 won for a 60-minute session by one or two therapists. Also, when a disabled child receives treatment to remove two cavities, some parents pay 4.9 million won after giving them general anesthesia. Our hospital is different. It’s way cheaper than others. The price we offer is possible because the hospital is operated by a public institution as part of the welfare program.

Price is especially important when it comes to rehabilitation treatment because it needs to be done continuously from an early age. The life of a child could be turned upside-down depending on how he or she receives rehabilitation. I want more disabled children to receive treatment from our hospital but it’s a pity.

The workload of nurses would be unimaginable.

There are 120 nurses at the hospital. They sometimes come up with names for the abandoned children and they hold birthday parties every month. Nurses work in three shifts so their schedule is quite tight. Our hospital is a difficult workplace for them if they don’t have a sense of duty. I often tell hospital employees that we are blessed people.

Every year, around 2,500 volunteers visit the hospital to donate their talents and I tell them that we are blessed and thankful that we’re able to volunteer while receiving monthly pay at the same time.

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