Posted : 2009-04-12 21:05
Updated : 2009-04-12 21:05

Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital Goes Global

Director Hwang Tae-kon
By Bae Ji-sook
Staff Reporter

Large hospitals in Seoul have been rushing to install state-of-the-art machinery, introduce new techniques and show off lavish skyscrapers.

St. Mary's Hospital linked, to the Catholic University of Korea, is the latest in the pack.
It completed an eye-popping 22-story glass-covered building with 1,200 beds on March 16. The hospital is to become one of the ``Top 3'' in Korea and is estimated to have invested one trillion won for the project.

It was considered one of the major five hospitals with 600 beds, but its small building had projected the impression that the hospital was smaller than others.

The hospital's director, Hwang Tae-kon, said he is ready to show the world that the hospital, the largest among Catholic medical facilities in the world, is ready to compete with other medical giants, not only in Korea, but worldwide. The hospital has financed more than 250 billion won to buy the newest and best medical devices, not only for operation rooms but also beds and other equipment.

``Forget overly small and humble beds and devices. I think it's good for the Catholic community to have a hospital that can provide the newest and best services to patients,'' Hwang said. ``The hospital will symbolize the newest and best of medical services that Catholic institutions can provide,'' he added.

The hospital has the first magnetic navigation system in the country, as well as cardiac picture archiving and communication systems and dual CT scanner facilities.

But it's not just the staggering hardware that gives Hwang the boost of confidence. The general hospital is praised to have the best corneal transplant center and the oldest and largest bone marrow transplant centers in the nation, as well as renowned gynecological surgery teams. The hospital has also established specialized centers for intensive disease treatment.

The hospital is ready to attract foreigners as well. It's seeking certification from Joint Commission International, making it the only hospital in the country to do so apart from Yonsei Severance. ``We designed the whole building to be user-friendly and as hygienic as possible to meet JCI standards. I'm sure we'll be getting the highest recognition,'' Hwang said confidently.

Once it receives the JCI acknowledgement, the hospital is likely to gain more trust from foreign patients who use the certification as a basic reference.

Its International Healthcare Center has a Russian staff member with a doctor's license and several coordinators who are fluent in Russian, Chinese, English and other languages.

``Our initial target is Russia. The country seems to understand medical service well and trust Korean skills,'' Hwang said. Hospital spokesman Lee Seung-woo also said Saint Mary is targeting patients willing to stay in Korea for treatment for a bargain price rather than flying to the United States. ``So our initial targets will include Russians, Mongolians and others,'' he said.

To welcome and wow patients, the hospital has deluxe rooms that costs over four million won per night, the most expensive here. ``The hospital has a great view, location and transportation. From the top floor you can see the beautiful scenery of the southern part of Seoul,'' the spokesperson said.

However, Hwang said he doesn't want the hospital to be described as ``flashy.''

``Nearly all medical fees are controlled by the government and patients can benefit from the national insurance system coverage, so the money patients will pay will be the same except for uninsured examinations,'' he said. ``Our actual objective is to provide high-end medical service,'' he said.

Especially established under a Christian spirit, the hospital has been putting efforts in some ``less profitable'' sectors such as ophthalmology, bone marrow transplants, a hospice and other programs. Its hospice service is the oldest in the country.

Hwang said, ``They (patients) deserve the best treatment and the best way to face death. It has nothing to do with lame patient management or anything near it,'' he said.

``Everyone is welcomed at anytime,'' he said.

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