- Title: South Korea calls for more public hospitals to fight infectious diseases
- Date: 16th July 2020
- Summary: DAEGU, SOUTH KOREA (FILE - MARCH 8, 2020) (REUTERS) MEDICAL STAFF PASSING BY AT KEIMYUNG UNIVERSITY DAEGU DONGSAN HOSPITAL / SIGN READING (Korean): "COVID-19 BASE HOSPITAL" MEDICAL STAFF WALKING OUT OF HOSPITAL VARIOUS OF MEDICAL STAFF IN PROTECTIVE SUIT WALKING AROUND BUILDING MEDICAL STAFF IN PROTECTIVE SUITS WALKING INTO BUILDING / ONE OF MEDICAL STAFF SHOWING "THUMBS UP" SIGN
- Embargoed: 30th July 2020 08:46
- Keywords: COVID-19 National Health Insurance Service South Korea coronavirus doctors guidelines hospital
- Location: SEOUL, DAEGU, CHUNCHEON, SOUTH KOREA
- City: SEOUL, DAEGU, CHUNCHEON, SOUTH KOREA
- Country: South Korea
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA009CN24PJB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: South Korea needs to train for potential infectious disease outbreaks worse than COVID-19 and detailed treatment guidelines, as risks of more frequent such outbreaks rise and public sickbeds remain tight, a senior government official said.
"It's necessary to prepare for epidemics that are more highly transmissible and fatal and run simulation exercises on various scenarios, such as how to transform the existing hospitals, where to send the medical staff, or where to send patients," NationalÂ HealthÂ Insurance Service (NHIS) President Dr Kim Yong-ik said.
South Korea's early success to tame the novelÂ coronavirusÂ through aggressive contact tracing and testing has been touted by disease experts worldwide as gold standard of how to effectively control infectious disease.
Its early state intervention limited widespread community infections and helped hospitals keep sickbeds available for severely affected patients.
But its extremely low rate of public hospital beds - only 10% of total - remains a potential weak spot, as the country continues to battle small but persistent outbreaks and front-line publicÂ healthcare workers suffer burnout after more than six months of treating COVID-19 patients.
Kim Dae-ha, a spokesman for the Korean Medical Association which represents all doctors in South Korea, said the low proportion of public sickbeds and doctors has not been a problem as privately owned clinics have as much influence as the public ones.
Rather than investing in doctors in specific fields for public hospitals, it is more efficient to support existing private doctors and hospitals, he added.
South Korea's nationalÂ healthcare insurance, which covers the entire 50 million population, has so far spent 132 billion won ($109 million) treating COVID-19 patients and the amount is likely to rise above 200 billion won this year, according to NHIS.
(Production: Dogyun Kim, Daewoung Kim, Soohyun Mah, Minwoo Park)
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