SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Korea Bizwire) – In the wake of reports that four newborns had died at Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital, research has found there to be a labor shortage problem among medical professions dealing with newborn care.
On December 18, a report by the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service on 61 neonatal intensive care units (NICU) at hospitals across the country, including university-affiliated institutions, revealed that only 11 locations (18 percent) employed one professional per 9 hospital beds or less.
This would mean that staff at 50, or 82 percent of all NICU’s are caring for at least ten newborns or possibly more.
The report provided more detailed figures: 15 (25 percent) of hospitals have one professional per 11-15 beds, 10 (16 percent) have one per 16-20 beds, and eight (13 percent) employed one professional who was responsible for more than 20 beds.
The term professional used here refers to qualified individuals with the requisite knowledge of pediatrics who work at minimum five 8-hour days in the NICU. These staff members generally oversee the facility, and their presence is known to enhance the quality of treatment and to result in better prognoses for the newborns.
The Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service stated, “Despite the fact that the intensive care of newborns is a job that requires not only an extraordinary high level of expertise, but is also a labor-intensive one, not enough staff are being hired to match the number of hospital beds.”
Experienced nurses and doctors must be retained, while support for new hires is critical, as an excessive workload is another concern regarding newborns’ safety and well-being.
The report also highlighted the shortage of doctors for newborns.South Korea has one per 3,455, nearly four times less than neighboring Japan, which has one doctor per 810.8 infants.
The Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service’s report was conducted in response to a request from the Korean Society of Neonatology.