Emergency doctor helicopters will be available at night in S. Korea

By Park Sae-jin Posted : January 16, 2018, 16:39 Updated : January 16, 2018, 16:41

The health minister Park Neung-hoo. [Photo by Yoo Dae-gil = dbeorlf123@ajunews.com]

SEOUL, Jan. 16 (Aju News) --  Emergency medical services using helicopters will be available at night in South Korea, helped by a popular public petition prompted by a "miracle" doctor who saved a North Korean defector from death in November last year.

There are six "Doctor Helicopters" run by South Korean hospitals to provide quick medical services on spot, but they cannot fly at night mainly because of safety and government regulations. Expensive running costs have also restricted their deployment.

In an answer to a public petition posted on the presidential website, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo promised Tuesday to allow the night operation of doctor helicopters and provide full state support to improve the poor working environment at trauma centers.

The petition, supported by 281,985 people, followed critical comments by Lee Guk-jong, a trauma center physician who showed his relentless devotion to save a seriously wounded North Korean soldier who defected through a volley of gunshots in the truce village of Panmunjom in November last year.

The doctor working at Ajou University Hospital in Suwon south of Seoul openly criticized South Korea's medical system, insisting more than 30,000 trauma patients die annually because they don' get proper treatment in time.

Lee, who works tirelessly running the emergency trauma center, demanded state support to operate doctor helicopters and trauma centers properly. His calls won widespread public attention, leading to a voluntary petition.

"We will make preparations so that all trauma centers can work properly to protect our own people, "Park said in a video uploaded to the presidential office's social media. He said doctor helicopters would be allowed to operate at night and other helicopters at fire stations will be linked to trauma centers.

The minister also vowed to improve the working conditions of medical crews at trauma centers, bowing to demands from Lee, who has been respected as the "miracle doctor", or a national hero for saving the life of an abducted ship captain shot multiple times by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden in 2011.

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