Moms-to-be caught in crossfire of coronavirus

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Moms-to-be caught in crossfire of coronavirus

When the Catholic University of Korea’s Eunpyeong St. Mary’s Hospital shut down its emergency room and temporarily stopped providing outpatient services after its 34-year-old employee was confirmed as infected with the coronavirus, expectant mothers who were patients of the hospital’s maternity department were left with nowhere to turn.

While a total of 12 people who were related to the hospital in Eunpyeong District, northern Seoul, have been confirmed as of Thursday, the likelihood of secondary infection is low unless close contact with the infected person occurred.

But pregnant women who visited Eunpyeong St. Mary’s for checkups or to see their doctors are now facing unexpected fallout from those visits as they are no longer welcomed at any other hospitals and postpartum care centers. “I have to look for another hospital as soon as possible, but none of them want to accept me,” a 39-week pregnant woman who had been receiving treatment at Eunpyeong St. Mary’s Hospital said. “I don’t know what to do now. I feel miserable.”

Another woman who visited the hospital was also refused by a maternity clinic in Eunpyeong District. The clinic told her that she can only make a reservation after 15 days of her visit to the hospital.

“What Eunpyeong St. Mary’s Hospital is doing to all pregnant women is utterly irresponsible,” she said. “It’s even more frustrating as the government is not doing anything for us.”

In response to the expectant mothers’ situation, many hospitals and postpartum care centers argue that the decision is inevitable as newborn babies and mothers who have just given birth are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases.

“As no one knows the exact incubation period of the coronavirus, pregnant women who visited Eunpyeong St. Mary’s Hospital have the potential of infecting others,” an employee from a maternity clinic located in Seodaemun District, western Seoul, said. “Anyone who visited the hospital, regardless of their dates of visits, is not allowed to come.”

Other moms-to-be agree with the hospitals’ decisions to ban the Eunpyeong St. Mary’s Hospital patients.

“I can’t welcome pregnant women from the Eunpyeong St. Mary’s Hospital although their situations are understandable,” a mother who is currently staying at a postpartum care center in Seoul said. “Even my husband is not allowed to come to see me at this time.”

Some maternity clinics are urging the government to take special care of all pregnant women who are in fear of contracting the novel coronavirus.

“It’s difficult for hospitals and clinics to accept pregnant women who visited the Eunpyeong St. Mary’s Hospital,” a doctor from a maternity clinic in Jongno District, central Seoul, said. “The government should put forth all efforts to specify a list of hospitals that have not been visited by infected and suspected patients so that pregnant women can feel safer.”

BY CHEA SARAH, HAM MIN-JUNG AND LEE HOO-YEON [chea.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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