Korea’s medical sector has been called for a structural overhaul to address blind spots despite its world-class standards after a nurse in her 30s suffered a brain hemorrhage at Seoul Asan Medical Center, one of the top hospitals in the world. country, while she was on duty and died because she had to be transported to another hospital. The tragic death underscored the urgent need to address the chronic shortage of medical personnel in surgical areas shunned by medical students and junior doctors and to streamline current medical insurance coverage.
Claiming to have taken all necessary emergency measures, the medical center attributed his death to his excessive internal bleeding. The Department of Health and Welfare has opened an investigation. Instead of fueling unnecessary disputes between doctors and nurses, the ministry must find practical solutions to prevent such accidents in the future. Experts advise tackling chronic shortages of medical personnel in particular areas first and streamlining the health insurance coverage system.
Due to rapid aging, brain hemorrhage surgeries jumped 55% in the past four years to 13,226 cases last year. Veteran actress Kang Soo-yeon recently died at the age of 55 from a brain hemorrhage. Despite the surge in emergency cases, the number of doctors remains the same. The medical community is stressing the need for more surgical doctors in their 40s who can perform emergency brain surgery.
At the medical center, three brain surgeons took turns working and operating. Two who were able to perform the operation to stop the subarachnoid hemorrhage in the case of the unfortunate nurse had attended a conference abroad during the summer holidays. The top five hospitals in Seoul have only two or three brain surgeons. The situation in smaller or regional hospitals is certainly worse.
Experts point to too low insurance reimbursement for brain surgeries. Doctors avoid surgeries because of the high risks and low returns. American brain doctors are paid 10 times more than their Korean counterparts to perform brain hemorrhage surgery.
Doctors in the neural surgery department often prefer the spine disease category over the brain category because it brings in more money. The problem cannot be solved simply by increasing the medical school quota or creating a government-run medical school.
Under the Moon Jae-in administration, national health insurance covered MRI scans even for a mild headache. Such a populist agenda has only reduced funding to areas that need more urgent support. The Ministry of Health and Welfare must take more fundamental steps to address the chronic shortage of doctors and medical staff in the field of neurosurgery.