Trauma centers incapacitatedA two-year-old boy, critically injured from a car accident, died because he did not get treatment in time. He was turned away by 13 big hospitals, citing the complexity of his surgery. He died on the surgery bed in Ajou University Hospital. This has occurred in a country that boasts of world-class medical care facilities and skills.
The two-year toddler was hit by a tow truck pulling back in an alley in Jeonju city, North Jeolla, around 5 p.m. on Sept. 30. His internal organs were severely damaged because the truck went over him. He was first taken to the Chonbuk National University Hospital, but the hospital had to send him to another one because its surgery rooms were already full. The hospital contacted major university hospitals around the area but couldn’t find one that would take him. By the time the National Central Emergency Center commanded Ajou University Hospital to accept him, he was on the verge of cardiac arrest.
An emergency chopper flew from Namyangju, Gyeonggi, to pick up the patient in Jeonju and arrived at the hospital near midnight. His heart stopped and he was seized with another arrest in the surgery room. There was little even the best surgical doctors could do. At 4:40 a.m., he was pronounced dead. His damaged organs could not sustain him for the 12 hours he was left on the bed.
Due to a strong plea from Dr. Lee Guk-jong of Ajou University Hospital, who is famed for saving Seok Hye-gyun — the captain of the freighter Samho Jewelry, who was shot during a rescue mission from Somali pirates in 2011 — 15 trauma centers have opened in the area since 2012.
The trauma centers that recently opened at Chonnam National University Hospital, Eulji University Hospital and Wonkwang University Hospital, which is ready to open its trauma center, all refused to help the little boy. Each center cost 8 billion won ($7.2 million) and 1.4 billion won each year in state subsidies to run for 15 years. But they have turned away the boy, saying that they did not have pediatric surgeons.
About 34 billion won has gone into trauma centers, but what is their use if they cannot even save one young life?
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 8, Page 30