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How home-treatment ensures safe and effective management of patients and neighbors Updated: 2021-09-23 10:49:04 KST

In line with plans for an exit strategy from the pandemic authorities here are exploring ways to BROADEN the ADOPTION of "at-home treatment".
For more I have Lee Kyung-eun here in the studio.
Welcome Kyung-eun.

Hi Sun-hee.

I suppose the major concern about treatment at home is the possible aggravation of symptoms in the absence of medical personnel Kyung-eun?

Right Sun-hee, that is a valid concern.
But remember HOME TREATMENT, is allowed for patients, who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
So their chance of developing, a SEVERE ILLNESS, is very low.
But in case they do,… Gyeonggi-do Province has set up a special treatment center, which opened in the city of Suwon, last week.
It is a makeshift hospital, with 28 beds, total.
Patients can admit themselves here if their symptoms worsen while managing their illness at home.
They can stay up to 3 days.

This is how the system works.
First, they will report their symptoms.
Every day, they get two health check-ups from a nurse by phone.
Patients can also call for the help of emergences services at any time.
If they do so, an ambulance will transport them to the treatment center.
There, they will get an X-ray screening or a blood test.
If they don't have any UNUSUAL CONDITIONS, they will be sent home, to continue their treatment there.
In case of a more serious illness, they will stay there for 1 to 3 days to receive oxygen therapy and other treatment.
Or, be sent to designated COVID-19 treatment hospitals.

In other parts of the country, home treatment patients have to go STRAIGHT to designated treatment hospitals if their symptoms worsen.
In times of a spike in cases, like now, they could be put on a waiting list due bed shortages.
But this temporary treatment center could serve as a bridge in-between, that could help save limited hospital resources.

I hear there are also concerns about the proper disposal of household waste generated by patients?

That's right.
Patients receiving home treatment, need to sanitize their homes and belongings on a regular basis.
And during this process, a lot of waste is generated, which MIGHT contain, VIRUS PARTICLES.
That's why everything, that comes out of their homes,. including food,. are categorized as medical waste.
And the government provides a special waste bag,… which patients,can put all their disposal items in.
The bag itself also needs to be sanitized before public workers come and collect them.
Then, they are burned on the same day.

But the collection process will become more challenging in the future.
As mentioned before, each waste bag is collected by public workers.
And, manpower shortages are expected as more patients receive treatment at home.
One solution is to outsource the collection of waste to private firms or to recruit more PUBLIC WORKERS, for the task.
Some experts also suggest, reducing the amount of waste, by allowing patients to place less dangerous items into general waste bins.
But this, would be easier said than done.

"We must assume that everything the patients touch is contaminated with the virus and it's hard to discern which is more or less dangerous than the other. Patients can help minimize exposure by putting as much of their waste as they can in each disposal bag."

Some experts say food as well as plastic, on which the virus can survive longer during winter should be categorized as medical waste.
But Korean health authorities are still in the process of finding an effective way to manage large amounts of medical waste.

I see.
And what are some other challenges in the case of broader adoption of home treatment options?

Well, patient management would be a challenge.
Because, each one of them, requires, very close monitoring.
Right now, about 35-hundred patients, in the country, have received home treatment.
They are mostly young children, under the age of 12, or those with childcare responsibilities.
Some parts of the country -- Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, Gangwon-do, and Jeju island -- have recently made home treatment available to adults living alone.
And the central government is planning to expand home treatment nationwide as it prepares for a gradual return to normal.
But the immediate hurdle will be the lack of staff and resources to manage the increasing number of patients.
Experts are therefore cautioning that an expansion of home treatment should be carried out gradually.

"The government could start by adopting home treatment for breakthrough cases involving fully-vaccinated patients who are less likely to transmit the virus, because the country doesn't have enough resources to make it available to all patients."

In the meantime, the government will need to find an effective way to re-allocate its medical resources.
The KDCA has yet to announced details regarding its home treatment plan, saying it is currently looking for an effective model.

All right Kyung-eun thank you for that report.

Thank you for having me.
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