A greater government attention is being requested by a local medical workers’ union in South Korea on Tuesday, amid the medical workers taking the front-line in the fight against COVID-19.
The union particularly cited the lacking remuneration for nurses that puts a threat in the operations of public hospitals and other hub-hospitals designated for COVID-19 battle.
In a press conference held in front of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, the koreal Health and Medical Workers’ Union has demanded urgent move to expand the nursing manpower at hospitals assigned to take care of COVID-19 cases. Expanding the manpower will boost the medical working situations, the group said.
The union aired their concern on the sluggish stride of nursing manpower boost at COVID-19 hospitals. They also complained about the pay difference between those received by nurses employed at public hospitals and those in the private sector who were deployed temporarily by the government at COVID-19 hospitals.
Apparently, nurses at COVID-19-only public hospitals receive less than a third of the allowances and salary of government-deployed nurses who receive 400,000 won or US$364 in every working day.
Following the massive pay gap, more and more public hospital nurses were left with no choice but to quit work as dispatched nurses. This scenario aggravates the shortage of manpower.
“At a public medical center in charge of COVID-19 patients in Gyeonggi Province, as many as seven nurses have quit this month alone. The government’s reluctance to fairly compensate public hospital nurses is feared to further accelerate their exodus,” according to the medical union.
“It is estimated that the government has spent about 10 billion won a month on the hiring of dispatched nurses since February last year. The huge budget was supposed to have been spent to sharply increase the number of medical workers at COVID-19 hub-hospitals,” they said.
The union argued that the expansion of nursing manpower at public hospitals and the boost in the work environment, as vowed by President Moon Jae-in last September, is being improperly applied.
Earlier this week, the government said that nurses at COVID-19-only hospitals will receive an additional allowance of 50, 000 won for a working day.
To show that it addresses public concern, the government further promised to triple the amount of COVID-19-related night stipend for nurses to over 120,000 per shift. The said increase will take effect this week, it said.
However, the medical workers’ union said that the move of the government is not enough to satisfy the demands of nurses.
This, as they worry that the increased night stipend can be reallocated to hospital finances.
The latest measures presented by the government also excludes many other medical workers who include nursing assistants, medical technicians and quarantine personnel, the union said.
Instead of the new measure, the union suggested that the regular hazard pay for nurses and increased financial provision for debt-burdened public hospitals can be counted among the possible countermeasures.