Samsung chief apologises for MERS failings at group hospital

Lee Jae-yong / Image: koreatimesLee Jae-yong, the new chief of the Samsung Group, has issued a public apology for the role of a Samsung hospital in the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, even as new cases of the disease seemed to be levelling off.

Lee Jae-yong, 47, who succeeded his ailing father last month, apologised to the MERS victims and patients today, in his first public speech since taking over the Samsung Foundation, the charity foundation that owns Samsung Medical Centre.

''Our Samsung Medical Centre could not stop the infection and the spread of the MERS, causing so much pain and worries to the public,'' Lee said in his rare public speech that was televised nationwide on his 47th birthday. ''I bow my head to apologise.''

Of the 175 reported MERS cases in South Korea, 85 were patients, relatives, or staff at the Samsung hospital or its visitors. The disease also killed 27 people since the outbreak in May.

One of the MERS patients was a Samsung contract worker who was left out of quarantine and continued to work at the hospital until the person was confirmed to have the disease.

Samsung Medical Centre, one of the largest hospitals in South Korea, stopped receiving patients last week.  Lee also vowed to revamp care at the hospital in the wealthy Gangnam district.

The hospital's role at the heart of the MERS crisis has been a major source of embarrassment for Samsung's founding family.

A breach in quarantine at the hospital, where the country's first MERS patient was diagnosed on 20 May after returning from the Middle East, caused the spread of the disease in the country.