Go to contents

Full non-face-to-face medical consultations permitted

Posted February. 24, 2024 08:02,   

Updated February. 24, 2024 08:02


As concerns grew about a medical crisis arising from medical residents' suspension of hospital work, the government elevated the healthcare crisis level to 'severe' for the first time in history and granted full permission for telemedicine. Consultation hours will be extended at 97 public hospitals, including Seoul Medical Center, and military doctors along with public health doctors will also be deployed to large hospitals.

Prime Minister Han Deok-soo chaired the 'Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters for Response to Collective Action of Doctors' inaugural meeting at the Seoul Government Complex on Friday. To respond with the full force of the government, the Central Accident Response Headquarters, primarily led by the Ministry of Health and Welfare until the previous day, underwent an upgrade.

"Collective actions that jeopardize the lives and health of the people cannot be justified for any reason," Prime Minister Han said. "Collective action is an act of forgetting the noble mission of medical professionals." He also issued a warning to medical residents who left the hospital, stating, "Illegal group action is a dangerous method that can undermine the dreams of young doctors."

Starting Friday, the government has temporarily authorized non-face-to-face consultations. Until now, telemedicine was only permitted on a limited basis, such as for consulting patients at clinic-level hospitals and residents in medically underserved areas. However, as of Friday, telemedicine will be available for all citizens seeking contactless consultations at any hospital. Nevertheless, the rollout period may vary among hospitals due to the time required for system implementation. An official from the Ministry of Health and Welfare clarified, "This measure aims to distribute demand, as patients at tertiary hospitals who cannot receive treatment are expected to turn to primary and secondary hospitals."

The government has decided to extend weekday clinic hours at 97 public hospitals nationwide, including Seoul Medical Center and Red Cross Hospital, until around 8 p.m. Weekend and holiday medical consultation hours will also be expanded. Furthermore, there are plans to deploy military and public health doctors based on the identified manpower needs of large hospitals facing delays in essential medical care.

Sung-Min Park min@donga.com