There’s a lot of tension and anxiety in South Korea right now with the outbreak of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) shaking up the country, and there’s also a lot of anger towards the government for its perceived mishandling of a very sensitive and urgent situation.
In the case when an epidemic is possible, the question of transparency comes to the forefront for those working in bureaucratic agencies, a question that South Korean citizens think the government is not giving the right answer to.
Up until this morning, the government and its various public health agencies have refused to give the names of the hospitals or regions where MERS cases have emerged, citing caution against causing unnecessary alarm and overreaction. But with the growing voice of protest, as well as the increasing numbers of confirmed cases, people possibly infected, and MERS deaths, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has found that it could no longer remain silent, and have finally revealed the name of one hospital where MERS patients have been confirmed.
It’s the Pyeongtaek St. Mary’s Hospital, located in the city of Pyeongtaek in Gyeonggi Province, about two hours south of Seoul. In a emergency briefing early today, June 5 KST, the Minister of Health and Welfare, Moon Hyung Pyo, announced that out of the 41 confirmed cases of MERS, 30 are from that hospital. Minister Moon stated, “We decided to reveal [the name of the hospital] in order manage people who have come in contact with the hospital.” He asked that all those who has come in contact with the Pyeongtaek St. Mary’s Hospital between May 15 to 29 to report themselves to the Ministry of Health and Welfare or to the Gyeonggi Province’s call center.
Moon Hyung Pyo also promised that it will reveal the names of all medical institutions (e.g. hospitals) in which there is a concentration of confirmed patients. It should be noted that this is not a promise to reveal any and all names of hospital with patients, but only those with a significant amount of patients. Who determines that and at what number is “concentration” deemed significant is yet to be defined.
As of noon June 5, KST, the number of deaths from MERS has risen to four and cases confirmed to 41.