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Putting up Shingle in Rural Areas after Finishing Residency

Putting up Shingle in Rural Areas after Finishing Residency

Posted November. 09, 2007 07:50,   


“I want to live in Seoul but I have no other option but to make a living here,” sighed a doctor who recently put up shingle in a city with a population of 10,000, in South Jeolla Province.

Originally, he planned to open his own clinic in Gangnam area, Seoul, after finishing his residency at his school in Seoul. However, after a feasibility study, he scrapped his plan and decided to leave Seoul.

He was angry that he had spent 16 years of his life studying medicine and all he could find was a job in rural clinic, but he finally decided to accept the reality.

The greater-Seoul metropolitan area is saturated with doctors -

Many doctors are opening clinics in small cities after finishing their residencies.

If history is any guide, opening a clinic used to be a quick way to make handsome profits in a very short time. Only those who sought honor chose to remain in academia.

With medical markets in big cities saturating, doctors are moving to smaller cities to avoid the competition in the metropolises. The situation in the dental and oriental medicine markets is no different.

According to 2005-2007 analyses this newspaper sourced from the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service, the area that saw the steepest increase in the number of clinics per 100,000 people was Ongjin in Incheon, with an 88.1% increase; followed by Boeun in N. Chungcheong (48.4%); Sancheong in S. Gyeongsang (31.9%); Cheongwon in N. Chungcheong (31.1%); Hapcheon in S. Gyeongsang (25.2%); Gunwi in N. Gyeongsang (24.4%); Ilsandong-gu in Goyang, Gyeonggi (23.5%); Hamyang in S. Gyeongsang (20.7%); Changnyeong in S. Gyeongsang (18.5%); Jinan in N. Jeolla (17.1%).

Because of this, the overall quality of medical services for local citizens is improving.

A patient in his 40s living in northern Gyeonggi, that your correspondent met in a clinic for internal disease, said, “In the past, I didn’t go to see a doctor even if I did not feel well. Now I am reassured that there are many competent doctors, many of whom used to practice medicine in Seoul.”

“I won’t send my kids to medical school” –

Avoiding highly competitive big cities does not guarantee a good income.

Dr. Park, who recently started practicing in a city of 40,000 people in northern Gyeonggi, led a stable life running a clinic in Seoul until the 1990s. Starting in 2000, things suddenly turned sour and he left Seoul for a smaller city. He went out of business four times.

Once in the past he gave up his own clinic and took a job in a general hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital suffered financial losses and he was forced to quit. He then leveraged 300 million won to open a new clinic.

Back in 2002, when he opened his medical office in a small city, he illegally employed a pharmacist to open a pharmacy in order to attract more patients to his clinic. To his dismay, he had to shut down both his clinic and pharmacy because he was unable to pay the rent and his pharmacist.

Park said, “Even though my monthly income is only 2 to 3 million won, I feel I am on a stable path now. I talked my son into giving up his dream of going to medical school to spare him difficulties in the future. Instead, he chose an engineering major.”

Medical school expansion 20 years ago led to woes for rural doctors -

The increase in the number of rural doctors is due to the government’s approval of a large scale expansion of medical schools in anticipation of a doctor shortage.

Under the expansion plan, the number of medical schools and oriental medical schools increased from 31 in 1985 to 52 in 2000. In the same period, the number of students admitted to the schools increased to 4050 from 3230.

As a result, the number of medical students jumped dramatically from the early 1990s and they flooded the medical market from 2005. The number of medical licenses (including oriental medicine) tripled from 33,385 in 1985 to 100,676 in 2005.

Based on current trends, the number of doctors is expected to peak in 2010, according to the Korean Medical Association, which has strongly urged the government to decrease the entrance quota.

From 2004, the government started cutting the quota and special admissions. The government plans to cut the numbers by 10% in the long-term. But it doesn’t see eye to eye with the Association, which is pushing for a 30% cut.