07/10/2015, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Seoul, card. Yeom to doctors caring for MERS patients: “Our country takes pride in you”

by Stephany Sun*
On July 8, the archbishop of the capital visited a hospital run by the Catholic Medical Center, which runs the largest medical network in the country: "You have embodied the spirit of the hospital, which is respect for human life". Many state hospitals have refused to receive patients suspected of MERS, while Catholics have welcomed them and cared for them.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - “To all personnel who risk their lives to fight against MERS, I offer my heartfelt gratefulness.” Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung told the medical team and nurses who had direct contact with the patients during the MERS outbreak in Seoul.

“The medical team of CMC (Catholic Medical Center) has played a critical role in bringing an end to the MERS crisis. You have shown real courage in dreadful situations and truly lived out the spirit of the hospital founded in respect for human beings.”

On Wednesday July 8, Seoul Archbishop Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung visited Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital of the Catholic University of Korea and met with about 15 doctors, nurses, and staffs who stood on the front lines in the fight against MERS.

The Cardinal was asked to wear a mask during the meeting. “I seldom wear a mask and I am already feeling the discomfort,” said Cardinal Yeom. “Imagine how much discomfort the medical team has to endure while taking care of the patients in the protective suit.”

Before he left the hospital, the Cardinal gave each person a rosary and encouraged them to “always give their best effort with a prayerful heart.” The Cardinal also promised that he will always pray for them.

Ms. Stella Sun-hee Yun, a nurse who voluntarily offered to treat the MERS patients, said that the choice to help others was an almost instinctive reaction. “When I heard about the MERS outbreak and how my colleagues are risking their lives to fight against the crisis, I felt the urge to offer my service as a medic.”

“I was under a lot of pressure worrying about emergency situations because only limited medical staffs are allowed in the isolation ward,” recalled Ms. Yun. “I was very touched when the patient said to me, ‘thank you so much for coming here, I know it wouldn’t be easy.’”

The hospitals under the Catholic Medical Center received appraisal from the government for handling the MERS outbreak in a fast and excellent manner. In June, the government named 8 hospitals of the CMC—including Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital—the “trustworthy hospital of Korea.”

During the MERS outbreak, some hospitals in the country rejected suspected-patients because of the anxiety. CMC affiliated hospitals took over the MERS suspected patients and treated them with extra care. With excellent treatment and careful measure, MERS disease was successful controlled within the hospitals with no other infections—unlike other general hospital where 13 people were unfortunately infected.

On July 12, a Holy Mass dedicated to the MERS outbreak was celebrated in Yeouido St. Mary's Hospital. Medical staffs from 8 hospitals of CMC prayed together with patients and their families. During the Mass, the medical staffs recite a declaration, promising to give their best effort to take care of those who suffer from MERS.

CMC, the Catholic Medical Center, was established by the Archdiocese of Seoul. The Archbishop of Seoul takes the responsibility of the chairman. CMC has the largest scale of medical network in Korea, with medical schools, nursing schools, the Graduate School of Catholic University, Biomedical Industrial Research Center, and 8 affiliated hospitals of the Catholic University.

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