※ 'Corona Behind' is a report by Park Soo-jin, a reporter from the Life and Culture Department of SBS Press Headquarters, who is running at the forefront of COVID-19 coverage.

Once a week, reporters Park's articles and thoughts that were not included in the article are released to readers.

[Her editor's note]

When I met her the day before, 36 million won was stamped on her medical bill, but the next day she showed her 42 million won in the receipt.

She said, "The one I showed you yesterday was a receipt I opened on Saturday. This is a receipt I opened a while ago."

Since this day was last Tuesday, 6 million won increased in three days.

She is a single woman in her early 30s.

She is the only daughter of her parents in her 70s.

Although she was not affluent as a family receiving basic livelihoods, she struggled to balance reality and dreams in a daily life that she could afford until Corona 19 entered her life.

But since the end of December last year, the balance has been broken.  

Parents in their 70s were infected with Corona at the same time

late last year.

My parents tested positive for Corona at the same time.

Vaccination was completed, and I was careful enough not to eat well outside, but I could not avoid the virus.

At first, it was about high fever.

But her mother's condition worsened.

About three days after she started home treatment, her mother called, 'She's having trouble breathing'.

"Oxygen saturation was down to 50. I can't breathe well. I called the public health center, but the response was too late because it was early in the morning. I called 911 and was then transferred to the hospital."

At the time, I was very embarrassed, but now I think, 'It would have been better if it was around that time'.

Her mother walked to 119 ambulance, arrived at the hospital, talked to her daughter on the phone, and didn't forget to tell her, 'I'm going to throw out all my clothes here, so pack some underwear and some clothes to send.'

But three days later, in the morning, an urgent phone call came.

“They told me that my respiratory failure was so bad that I needed to be put on a ventilator. If I intubated my airway, I would have to remain unconscious from that point on. I cried and asked the doctor for one last video call. My mother was almost unconscious. He just nodded."

He even had a heart-lung machine, but he is not a corona patient

three days after that.

Another call from the hospital.

The doctor said, 'I continue to test for corona, and it comes out negative.

Now there is no transmission power,' he said.

At the same time, he said, 'I am trying to move from the corona negative pressure ward to the general intensive care unit'.

"If you move to the general intensive care unit, the patient or guardian takes off the protective clothing and receives treatment, so the response is much faster and collaboration with other departments is possible. I heard that it would be better, so I agreed."

At that time, the delta mutation was at its height and the severe hospital shortage was exacerbated.

To improve bed efficiency, the government limited the number of days spent in an intensive care unit to 20 days, and then took measures to move it to a general ward.

When moved to the general intensive care unit, her mother was still intubated, and she received the same treatment as she had while in the negative pressure ward.

It is said that she did not know well until then.

Even if she receives the same treatment, when she comes out of the corona isolation ward, she knows that she is no longer a corona patient.

70 days have passed since then, but my mother is now in the intensive care unit with only a blink of an eye.

The symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis and respiratory failure, which harden the lungs, worsened, and an artificial heart and lung system called 'Ekmo' was also installed.

Although she had been on an outpatient basis for high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia due to her old age, she never suffered from or received treatment for any lung disease.

“I sleep with the volume on my phone at the max every night. I don’t know when I’ll get a call. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the phrase ‘today is a turning point’. I haven’t done anything in the past two months. . I was in tears and my heart was heavy. Then I calmed down a bit and started working again in March. The hospital bills are also high."

She visits her mother every morning at the hospital, an hour away from her home.

She spends the morning at the hospital and goes back to work in the afternoon.

As her freelancer, she travels to a different location every day to find work.

The interview was also possible after taking care of my mother in the morning and before starting work in the afternoon.

Monthly income 2 million won, medical expenses 42 million won

Although I am not in a good situation, I did not worry about money when I first started treatment for Corona.

This is because it was believed that the country would fully cover the cost of corona treatment.

However, the cost of treatment supported by the state was only for a week while in the isolation ward.

Out of the 14 million won in medical expenses billed for a week, the patient's co-payment was 1.5 million won.

This 1.5 million won was provided by the government in the name of support for corona treatment expenses.

The amount charged for about three months after that was 200 million won as of last Tuesday.

Of these, 42 million won is a deductible, but there is no government support.

As a freelancer, there is no fixed income.

Her story is that she earns "about 2 million won a month".

At first glance, it seemed difficult to afford the treatment costs of tens of thousands of won.

Still, he says he's still lucky compared to other patients' families.

“I am so grateful to my mother that she has insurance for actual expenses. There are many elderly people who do not have actual expenses. Everyone said ‘a lucky case’. It costs several million won a week, but I used up all the money I had to prepare it. I borrowed it from my relatives and paid it off with a credit card. When the actual expenses are about 60-70% of the billed amount, Add cash to pay for next week's treatment."

However, there are limits to actual expenses insurance.

In her case, the limit is 50 million won.

Since it is already 42 million won, it will be difficult to get help with actual expenses after this week.

There is no deadline for mother's treatment, and even if there is improvement, rehabilitation treatment is necessary.

She eventually applied for a loan for her.

Disease and money were inextricably linked.

“There is an upper limit on co-payments, so you will get a refund later. . There is a system for catastrophic medical expenses, but even if it is a target, it is billed after the fact.

Intensive care unit that can only be admitted to 'own expense'

The reality is that only 'patients who have agreed to pay' are hospitalized at the corona hospital site.

Lee Bo-ra, co-representative of the Humanitarian Physicians Association (National Medical Center, National Infectious Diseases), who treats corona patients, said:

“Even after the quarantine release date, there are many cases where they do not recover immediately and are not in the condition to be discharged. This is especially true for patients who need to be admitted to the intensive care unit. If it is judged that it is difficult to come out within a week (the current standard for release from quarantine is 7 days after sample collection, regardless of symptoms), we ask the patient and their guardian first. Do you agree to pay the co-payment after a week? Only if you agree at the hospital site I have no choice but to be hospitalized, because there is a government policy. Recently, I have no choice but to explain this and start treatment.”

With my family in critical condition right now, there is no one who would not agree with this hospital's explanation.

It's like accepting an option where you don't have a choice.

Field doctors also say the current government policy needs improvement.

"It is true that quarantine can be lifted because the transmission of infection decreases within a week to ten days after confirmation. However, even if the virus is not released much, it cannot recover due to an immune response or damage to other organs in the body, Currently, the quarantine standard is set to 7 days for convenience, but it is difficult to convince from a medical point of view that treatment support benefits will be lost even if you are transferred to a general ward after that period. It is necessary to broaden the interpretation of the Infectious Disease Prevention Act so that it can be widely supported.”

(Co-representative of the Council of Doctors for Humanitarian Practices, Lee Bora)

Corona is not temporary.

The reason why families with critically ill corona patients are more upset about the current situation is because they view Corona 19, a first-class infectious disease, as a social disaster.

A disaster has come, but the current policy to determine whether or not a patient has Corona based only on the spread of the virus is not realistic.

The symptoms are still the same, but just because the quarantine is lifted, it is difficult to accept that you are classified as a person with an underlying disease.

It is difficult to accept the government's explanations that 'there are enough beds' and 'the number of critically ill patients and deaths are decreasing compared to the delta mutation'.

He says that the symptoms continue, but the isolation is lifted and the critically ill patient is not caught in the statistics.

"There is a group chat room where families of patients with severe coronavirus are gathered. The government says that Omicron has weak symptoms, so there are not many critically ill patients? But the number of guardians who enter the chat room keeps increasing. It's up. If you look at the patient-caregiver conversations, the same pattern repeats during the delta mutations in December of last year and January of this year."

The <Corona Severe Victims Protectors' Group> held a press conference in front of the Blue House on the 7th.

Requested to improve the current system for determining whether to apply for support based on the release of quarantine.

It was actually not easy for the guardians to gather here.

The story of the families is that 'it is impossible for families who have to go to the hospital every day and can't sleep all night with their cell phones on' to publicize and respond to this reality.

Nevertheless, it was difficult to endure any longer because it was difficult to stand in front of the public by revealing even the difficult family situation.

Families are demanding that the state support the full cost of treatment for corona patients, regardless of whether the quarantine is lifted.

It is difficult to clearly distinguish between 'patients with symptoms due to corona infection' and 'patients with underlying disease'.

"Even if Corona has barely healed, if there is a patient whose physical strength has deteriorated to the point where it is difficult to live without help from others, this cannot be called Corona to the extent that it is a worsening of the underlying disease. (Co-CEO Lee Bo-ra) is the story of the crab medical field.

What is the government's opinion on this issue?

After the press conference of the families of critically ill patients on the 7th, the government also asked for its position.

Families are demanding 'to broaden the range of corona patients who are eligible for support', but the government is repeating the existing answer that 'national support is only possible during quarantine', so it seems difficult to make contact.

<Online briefing of the Central Disaster Response Headquarters on March 7>

Q. A group of people with critically ill patients held a press conference and urged the government to fully subsidize the cost of treatment for critically ill patients, saying that 'removal of isolation' is not a 'cure'.

According to the government's improvement of hospital bed efficiency, they have to be discharged even if they have symptoms, and after that, the symptoms continue, resulting in treatment costs of up to tens of millions of won.

Please enter how you view the medium water version.

A. Park Hyang, head of the quarantine division at the Central Accident Response Headquarters

In the case of a guardian of a seriously ill patient, they are released from the quarantine bed, and it seems to be a story that the burden of medical expenses is high when transferred to a general hospital bed.

It is a very difficult problem in the field.

The medical expenses supported by the state according to the Infectious Disease Prevention Act apply to cases of compulsory quarantine.

When the quarantine period of the intensive care bed has passed for 20 days, it is considered that the infectivity has significantly decreased, so the power is turned off.

Nevertheless, it seems to be pointed out that there may be problems when transferred to a general hospital bed.

Let's try to understand the situation more about what the parents' claims are.

A. Son Young-rae, head of the social strategy division of the Central Accident Management Headquarters

If it is determined that the symptoms of corona infection are over, the quarantine is lifted and treatment is performed in a general ward.

In this case, health insurance will still apply.

This content seems to be a request for the state to provide for free of charge for the other parts of the self-pay.

In principle, rather than the problem of symptoms caused by Corona, whether the state continues to provide free support for exacerbated underlying diseases independently of this is not inconsistent with the Infectious Diseases Act and may also have problems with the adequacy of financial resources.

<Regular briefing of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters on March 11>

Q. The government is of the view that it is difficult to provide full support for treatment costs when the underlying disease worsens rather than the symptoms caused by the COVID-19 infection.

However, some patients and their families argue that the cost of treatment should be subsidized because the underlying disease may be aggravated by the COVID-19 infection.

Please explain how you judge this.

A. Park Hyang, head of quarantine at the Central Accident Response Headquarters

In the case of infection quarantine in the country, subsidizing treatment costs will be the national treatment cost for the forcibly quarantined part because there is a very high risk that the confirmed person will spread the virus to others.

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(Reporter: Park Soo-jin, PD: Kim Do-gyun, Illustration: Kim Jeong-yeon, Production: D Content Planning Department)