Lee’s sincere apologyJay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and head of the Samsung Foundation, which is in charge of running Samsung Medical Center, apologized Tuesday for the rapid spread of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) within the hospital. Lee made his second apology for failing to avert the massive proliferation of the virus through the hospital and for its doctor’s inappropriate remarks about the responsibility for failing to curb the infection. Lee’s second apology is seen as a responsible act from a chairman of the board of the foundation, who should take responsibility for the second round of wide infections.
At a press conference yesterday, Vice Chairman Lee bowed twice and expressed his deep regret for mishandling the potentially fatal virus after mentioning his ailing father, Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who has been hospitalized at Samsung Medical Center after a heart attack for more than one year. Vice Chairman Lee’s gesture can be regarded as a sincere apology for the pain the hospital caused a number of patients, their families and its own medical workers as well.
We take special note of the fact that Lee seeks a fundamental reform of hospital management systems beyond simple improvement of emergency room management systems and the establishment of specially-equipped rooms for contagious diseases. It is also meaningful for him as he vows to take a step further towards the goal of developing vaccines and medicines for infection-related illnesses.
Samsung Medical Center may feel it’s falsely accused given its hefty investments in raising the quality of emergency rooms and curbing infections compared to other hospitals. It also played a pivotal part in tracing the disease back to Patient No.1 to begin with. Patient No. 14 also ended up spreading the infection at the hospital to 81 people because the government did not share information about other MERS-stricken hospitals. Yet the MERS virus’ penetration into the top hospital in Korea cannot be excused no matter what. Samsung Medical Center must come up with truly effective countermeasures through a relentless reform drive as soon as the MERS crisis is settled. The hospital must pay heed to the public outcry calling for reinforcement of its public health role beyond the seeking of profits. Improving security and safety by upgrading its crisis management systems in particular could help restore its reputation.
The CEO of a hospital has apologized, promised not to repeat mistakes and professed to develop vaccines and medicines for treatment. Now the ball is in the government’s court. People will watch carefully what the government will do from now on.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 24, Page 30