Disclaimer: I am fully aware of the absurdity of writing reviews about hospitals in Korea. I find it ridiculous that I have been to so many hospitals and had so many tests done that the irony of this post is not lost on me. Consequently, everything in this post should be taken with more than just a pinch of salt…
I’ve been in Korea just over two months and have been to three Emergency Rooms in the past six weeks. I’ve never been to an ER prior to moving to Korea so this is starting to seem a little ridiculous. I jokingly told friends that I should start writing reviews of the different hospitals in Korea so this is exactly what I’m going to do….
Each hospital’s ER will be rated in terms of professionalism, friendliness of staff, thoroughness and overall approach to foreigners.
Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH)
My first ever visit to an ER (both at home and in Korea) was at Seoul National University Hospital. It was a Sunday afternoon and I arrived at the ER at approximately 16:00. I thought my appendix had burst (it hadn’t). This was an interesting experience and my induction into the Korean medical approach which sees all patients being placed on a saline drip to re-hydrate them while they await test results. I’ve since learnt that Koreans tend to get very stressed due to their competitiveness in school and work and long working hours all around so most of them probably need rehydration more than anything else.
I have my blood pressure and temperature taken by a triage nurse (I thought triage was something doctors did in a real emergency situation and only when dealing with hundreds of people but that’s an understanding formed from information gleaned from one too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy) and am then told to wait to see a doctor. The doctors were friendly and really tried to help me by speaking in English. One doctor in particular really went out of his way to try and help me as much as possible and even took the time to personally escort and translate things for me at times. When I made it clear that I did not want anymore tests done because I didn’t understand why they were being done or the procedures involved, I appreciated his understanding and the fact that the supervisor of the ER then took the time to speak to me, also in English, and do a thorough physical examination before discharging me.
Rating: The staff was exceptionally friendly and professional; their thoroughness was overwhelming as they seemed determined to investigate every possible cause for my abdominal pain even if it took all night. The nurses and doctors went out of their way to assist me and were fairly foreigner friendly. However, the long wait between tests and consultations is a little overwhelming at times. Overall: Not a bad ER to go to if you’re in Seoul but you need to be very patient.
Soon Hyung Chang Hospital (SHCH)
The next ER is that of Soon Hyung Chang Hospital in Itaewon, Seoul. For the details of this visit, please read the following post “New Clothes, New ER, New Embarrassing Experiences”. This was more of an emergency clinic and it is considerably smaller than that of SNUH. Since it is much smaller than SNUH – and very quiet despite being a Saturday night in a rougher part of town – the ER was very quiet. Also, when I arrived there unable to breathe, it was a genuine emergency and not just my hypochondria acting up.
The staff were quick to respond and attend to me and, initially, I must have had at least half a dozen doctors and nurses attending to me. The nurses were friendly and went out of their way to communicate as much information as possible to me even when they felt uncomfortable in English. They were also very accommodating of our concern and tried to discharge me as quickly as possible in an effort to help us get home that night.
Rating: The staff was extremely professional and had the perfect balance (from a Western perspective) between professionalism and friendliness. They were very thorough in all of their treatment but also very foreigner friendly and patient in understanding all concerns and questions. Although I’ve been told that Yonsei University’s Hospital is the best place to go, Soon Hyung Chang Hospital was pretty incredible and definitely where I’ll go for emergency medical treatment in Itaewon.
Gunsan Medical Centre (GMC)
The final ER is that of Gunsan Medical Centre which is where I usually go for all doctor appointments since they have an international coordinator and several doctors speak pretty good English. For the details of this visit, please refer to the previous post “Gunsan Medical Centre’s ER”.
This was perhaps the most disappointing of the three ERs and the most frustrating. Although they treated and assisted me and were prompt to respond, I still don’t understand why they didn’t call the international coordinator soon after I arrived – or at least at 9:00am when she starts work. The lack of information was especially frustrating!
Rating: The staff is professional but not very friendly. They’re a bit dismissive of patient concerns and some of the doctors definitely need to work on their bedside manner. This ER is not as foreigner friendly as those of SNUH and SHCH in Seoul. In addition, I don’t think GMC was as thorough as the other two hospitals although it is convenient if you live in Gunsan. Overall, if you have a medical emergency and can make it to Jeonju (approximately 45 minutes away from Gunsan) rather aim for Jeonbuk National University Hospital instead.