Doctors warn of Korean healthcare collapse in letter to The Lancet < Hospital < Article


The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, has published coorrespondence from Korean doctors warning that the policy of increasing the number of medical school seats has exposed the “serious flaws” of Korean healthcare and is pushing it to the brink of collapse.

The Lancet published correspondence, "The South Korean health-care system in crisis," in its latest edition. 
The Lancet published correspondence, “The South Korean health-care system in crisis,” in its latest edition. 

Professor Yoon Joo-heung at the Department of Medicine of University of Pittsburgh, Professor Kwon In-ho at the Department of Emergency Medicine of Dong-A University College of Medicine, and Professor Park Hyoung-wook at the Department of Social Medicine of Dankook University College of Medicine published the correspondence, titled, “The South Korean health-care system in crisis,” in the latest edition of The Lancet.

The signs of the healthcare crisis in Korea started when the government announced its plan in February to increase the medical school quota by 2,000 seats from 2025, the letter said.

The letter went on to say that Korean healthcare, which had been “a role model to many other countries” for its low cost and high accessibility, was being jeopardized by the government’s push to increase medical shool seats. 

After the government announced that it would increase the number of medical school seats by 67 percent from the current level starting in the 2025 academic year, 90 percent of trainee doctors resigned.

“The underlying motivation of the current protests goes well beyond increasing the number of physicians—it stems from serious unresolved flaws of the South Korean health-care system,” the correspondence said. 

The authors noted that the current nationwide turmoil started from extremely low reimbursement rates. 

“The intensive care unit gets reimbursed approximately 60 percent of the resources used, leaving hospitals with a 40 percent loss,” the correspondence in The Lancet said.

The letter also pointed out that healthcare providers in Korea face disproportionately high rates of criminal charges for medical errors.

From 2013 to 2018, the rate of such criminal charges for South Korean physicians has been about 15 times higher than Japan and a staggering 566 times higher than the U.K., according to the correspondence. 

The authors introduced a 2020 incidence where four infants died in the neonatal intensive care unit at Ewha Womans University Mokdong Hospital, saying it was “a very busy university hospital.” Two physicians and a nurse were jained for malpractice and put on trial with criminal charges, the letter continued. 

“Although acquitted by the Supreme Court, the shocking case alerted young physicians to avoid high-risk specialties.” 

The protest by young Korean doctors is “a desperate call to reorganise the fundamentally flawed healthcare reimbursement system” and regain physicians’ basic rights and safety, the authors said.

“The well-oiled healthcare system that the South Korean government has implemented is about to end unless drastic reformation takes place,” they concluded. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *