Fourth wave creates nursing shortage
A nursing shortage is growing in Korea as daily coronavirus cases continue to set new records.
Hyundae General Hospital, a Covid-19 designated hospital in Namyangju, Gyeonggi, recently posted an urgent job advertisement online for nurses.
While stating the requirements and salaries for senior and junior nurses in intensive care units, operating rooms, wards, and artificial kidney units, it wrote, “We are committed to preventing the spread of the coronavirus into the community and providing treatment of quality.”
“To all the nurses," it added, "we need your support.”
It read like a letter of appeal to nurses.
The hospital, which was the first private general hospital in northern Gyeonggi to be a designated a treatment facility for Covid-19 patients, has 109 beds for virus patients.
About 20 people were hospitalized before the fourth wave of the pandemic hit the country earlier this month, and the number has soared to 68. Some 22 out of 25 intensive care unit beds are occupied.
The hospital is in need of 10 to 20 nurses. Partly this is because of the rise of cases. It's also because nurses have quit out of fatigue.
Ten of the 60 nurses who worked with Covid-19 patients in Hyundae General Hospital turned in their resignations.
After putting the advertisements online, there haven’t been many inquiries.
“We are wondering whether to ask for aid workers from the government,” Kim Boo-seop, the head of Hyundae General Hospital, said.
The government says it has dispatched a total of 2,381 medical staff to help with Covid-19 treatment and testing.
This number includes medical staff dispatched to residential treatment centers, makeshift testing clinics, and vaccination centers.
Patients with mild symptoms who do not need hospitalization are treated at residential treatment centers.
“Even when the government’s support staff comes," Hyundae General Hospital's Kim said, "it takes time to get them trained and adapted, and this can cause conflicts with existing medical staff, so we try to recruit new nurses ourselves.
“The government has created a new benefit for nursing work force, but rather than that, we need more social encouragement and support,” he said.
The Korean Health and Medical Workers' Union also points out that government-dispatched personnel are not really helpful.
“Many are people who were off the job for a long time or complete rookies, and some cannot even draw blood or conduct emergency tests,” Lee Sun-hee, vice-chairman of the union, said.
“On-site nurses train them and teach them electronic systems, which takes at least a week, way more for rookies. But then they quit in three weeks.”
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA), Korea reported 1,674 Covid-19 cases on Thursday, including 1,632 local infections, raising the total caseload to 195,099.
The number of Covid patients in critical condition came to 285, the second-highest level since the beginning of the fourth wave of pandemic.
Critical cases have surged to almost twice the number reported in early this month, which stood at 139 and 149 on July 5 and 6, respectively.
Serious or critically ill patients need high flow oxygen therapy, artificial respirators, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
Hospitalizations of patients in less critical states, or moderately severe conditions, are also increasing. Hospital beds are also filling up.
In Gangwon, the utilization rates of hospital beds rose to 80.1 percent, and to 84.2 percent in residential treatment centers, as the province's Covid-19 cases keep rising, and hit a record on Wednesday.
The central city of Daejeon has been using LH Training Center as its residential treatment center, and it is now 95 percent full.
Some local governments are desperate to find new places for patients.
In the Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center Paju Hospital, 109 out of 116 Covid-19 beds are occupied.
It has been like that for half a month – as soon as someone is discharged from the hospital, another person takes the bed.
"Nurses are having a hard time wearing protective clothing in this heat,” Cho Ran-hee, head of the hospital's nursing department, said.
“We are already exhausted, but we feel more stressed as we can't see an end.”
BY SEO JI-EUN, SHIN SUNG-SIK [firstname.lastname@example.org]