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Gov't to provide aid to MERS-hit hospitals: finance minister

2015/06/24 15:15

SEOUL, June 24 (Yonhap) -- The government will provide the maximum financial aid possible to hospitals and clinics that have suffered damages in their efforts to contain Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the top economic policymaker said Wednesday.

Since the first case was confirmed in late May, 27 people have died and 179 people have been diagnosed with MERS so far. There are currently 3,103 people kept in isolation as a precaution to prevent the spread of the disease.

In a meeting with medical personnel and administrators at Hallym University Kangnam Sacred Hearts Hospital in southern Seoul, Choi Kyung-hwan said the government will reimburse direct losses caused by a drop in patients and cover all treatment costs for MERS patients.

A sign at Hallym University Kangnam Sacred Hearts Hospital in southern Seoul informs the public it will suspend outpatient services to help contain the spread of MERS on June 24, 2015.(Yonhap) A sign at Hallym University Kangnam Sacred Hearts Hospital in southern Seoul informs the public it will suspend outpatient services to help contain the spread of MERS on June 24, 2015.(Yonhap)

In addition, MERS-hit hospitals and clinics will be allowed to get low-interest loans through the Industrial Bank of Korea. They can also draw money from the 20 billion won (US$18 million) emergency business stabilization fund.

Choi, who doubles as deputy prime minister for economic affairs, also said the government is open to suggestions made by front-line medical personnel that have been trying to cope with the respiratory illness.

"There have been growing calls from all sides demanding a wholesale overhaul of the way the country handles contagious diseases," Choi said. "Experts are looking at ways to update procedures to better identify, transport, treat and care for patients with contagious illnesses."

   While there has been a decline in the number of people contracting MERS, it is too early to let down the country's guard, Choi said.

He, in particular, asked medical personnel to take all possible precautions not to inadvertently pass on the illness to other people.

yonngong@yna.co.kr

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