Busan nurse takes her own life after being overworked

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Busan nurse takes her own life after being overworked

A nurse caring for a patient at a hospital in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, on May 11. [NEWS1]

A nurse caring for a patient at a hospital in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, on May 11. [NEWS1]

 
A nurse took her life in Busan recently after having told family and friends she felt overworked.  
 
“We found evidence that she looked up phrases such as […] brain damage, headache, and suicide by public officials the night before,” a member of a labor union in Busan told the JoongAng Ilbo. The nurse was part of the same union.  
 
The 33-year-old nurse committed suicide on May 23, according to Busan police.
 
Her family told the police that she “suffered from severe depression” after being overworked at a hospital.
 
According to the relatives, the nurse was assigned to a hospital in Busan that was running a cohort quarantine system.
 
Cohort quarantine means sealing off the hospital that gave way to Covid-19 cases, and non-Covid patients and caregivers alike are not allowed to leave. Only those who test positive are allowed to leave the hospital for treatment.
 
“She struggled very much because it wasn’t her turn to be assigned to the hospital, but she was assigned against her wishes,” a relative told the police.
 
The nurse’s supervisor told the police that while it wasn’t the nurse’s turn to be assigned to the hospital, they decided to assign her to the hospital given that she “had extensive experience in working with the hospital before.” In addition to the existing medical staff members at a hospital, nurses affiliated with public health care centers can be assigned to hospitals to help out.
 
On May 20, the fourth day since her assignment to the hospital, the nurse allegedly told her supervisor that she was being given too many tasks at once.
 
Her supervisor then assigned two additional nurses to the hospital.
 
The supervisor did admit, however, that many of the nurses affiliated with the public health care center were being overworked.
 
“There are 50 nurses affiliated with the public health care center that I am with,” the supervisor told the police. “But they have been stretched thin, because they’ve been assigned, in addition to their normal tasks, to Covid-19 testing centers and to epidemiology centers, and now to vaccination centers. It’s not an overstatement to say that our nurses barely get time off.”
 
According to the labor union in Busan, the number of complaints from their members about being overworked has been on the rise. Many of their members are civil servants, or medical staff members associated with public health care centers.
 
“The government is asking public officials here and there to take on additional tasks, and it’s tiring everyone out,” said one member of the union. “We will get to the bottom of the case to find out what were the causes for the nurse’s death.”
 
If you or someone you know is feeling emotionally distressed or struggling with thoughts of suicide, LifeLine Korea can be contacted at 1588-9191. The Seoul Global Center offers English-language counseling. Contact 02-2075-4180 to arrange a session. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org
 
LEE EUN-JI   [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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