Hospital that prescribes love
Hospital that prescribes love
  • 최윤지 기자
  • 승인 2007.10.01 00:00
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     “Are we in the right place?” We gaze around as we walk into the hospital trying to find a clue that indicates that this is a hospital for migrant workers.

     Although it is only 2:30 p.m. more than 140 patients have already visited the hospital since morning. But since many of them are Korean Chinese, the scene at the Migrant Workers Hospital located in Guro looks like that at any other Korean hospital.

     The first migrant worker hospital to be established in Korea, more than 82,000 people have received medical treatments here during the past three years. Every day, new patients from in and outside of Seoul visit the hospital as the word has been getting around that workers can receive free medical care even without a health insurance card. Patients are only charged for their prescriptions.

     Due to lack of medical supplies there are times when some patients have to retrace their way, but there is also magic happening in this hospital: patients tend to recover soon from their illnesses. “Because they do not have to worry about money and can be treated at the hospital as long as they want, patients are more positive and stabilize easily,” says Doctor Lee Wan-joo (63), the director of the hospital.

     Just like Lee says, the patients at the hospital seem at ease. Carlos Gerardo (31) from Peru had arm surgery recently. No heart piercing stories here, Carlos says, “I got hurt while playing soccer with my colleagues.” Emanuel Deleon (37) who came to Korea 10 years ago from the Philippines, wears a big smile on his face as he talks, even though he is being hospitalized for two weeks for breaking his arm. Emanuel also got injured while playing sports. Only this time it is roller blades!

     Although he works over 12 hours a day, Deleon hopes to stay in Korea as long as he can. “Even though I work a lot, my wife and I can live a better life in Korea than in the Philippines,” he says.

     Unlike Geraldo and Deleon, most of the patients who visit the hospital are Korean Chinese mainly because Guro, where the hospital is located, is a district where many Korean Chinese people work, and most of them are diagnosed with muscular pain or stomach disorders due to the stress from eating different food and dealing with a different culture. People from the same place often share similar symptoms. “Chinese have weak stomachaches, Mongolians have weak kidneys and Russians and Uzbekistanis, who are used to drinking high alcohol content liquor, often suffer from alcohol problems,’’ says Lee based on her experience.

     Although everything seems cheerful on the outside, there are many patients with pitiable conditions behind the veil. A letter from one migrant worker was delivered to Doctor Lee today, expressing gratitude on behalf of her friend who is a liver cancer patient in a terminal stage. Although the patient could not receive any medical care, he wanted to thank the hospital staff and donate his body for medical experiments.

     Nowadays, the crackdowns on illegal migrant workers are not harsh compared to the past; however, from time to time, migrant workers were arrested on their way out of the hospital.

Lee, who believes that volunteering is a true blessing, hopes to establish a hospital near Ansan, where there are many migrant workers. “Some workers cannot visit the hospital because it is too far from where they are staying. And taking a day off to visit the hospital would mean that they would not be receiving their daily payment,” says Lee. “By establishing a branch hospital I hope more people can receive medical treatment.”

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