A critical lack of professionalism
A government investigation sparked by a mass infection of 97 people with hepatitis C through blood-borne transmission in a clinic in Yangcheon District, southwestern Seoul, late last year discovered similar cases of infections from the reuse of injection equipment in Wonju in Gangwon and Jaecheon in North Chungcheong.
In Wonju, 105 out of 927 patients who received platelet-rich plasma injections were infected with hepatitis C between 2011 and 2014. Authorities are examining 3,996 people who had received treatment in a clinic in Jaecheon that just reused syringes for injections. The Ministry of Health and Welfare began the probe of the clinics on Friday.
The reuse of needles, syringes and other injection or infusion equipment is strictly forbidden, as the act can endanger lives of patients as well as hospital staff. The Health Ministry only initiated a full-scale investigation on clinics across the nation following public pressure from the incident, even though it should be fully aware that a quick response is essential to control outbreaks of infections. The health authorities must be responsible for its lack of oversight and action.
The ministry said it will take criminal action on the medical professionals and close off the hospitals. The act is a crime that jeopardized public health on a massive scale, but the medical professionals would only get a one-month suspension under current law. The government and legislature must toughen regulations, and cancel medical practice licenses for those who poorly manage and handle infection-related medical materials and equipment. Doctors who lack scientific and ethical judgment are not fit for medical licenses.
The ministry is narrowing down suspicious medical institutions through big data in various health oversight organizations. But it should quicken its nationwide field probe before the pre-planned March-May period to alleviate public concerns about injections, as people cannot feel safe about using hospitals and clinics when there is the possibility of getting an infection.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 15, Page 30