Seoul to invest $490 million to build more public city hospitals
In a move to address the growing emphasis on public health services since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Seoul City announced it will build a city-run hospital to serve as a control tower in any future health crises, a public rehabilitation hospital and a dental hospital for people with disabilities.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon on Friday announced plans to invest a total of 612 billion won ($490 million) in expanding public medical services by 2026.
“In response to Covid-19, all city hospitals, including Seoul Medical Center, were operated as hospitals dedicated to infectious diseases,” Oh said during a press briefing held at the City Hall on Friday.
“This has made it very difficult to treat other diseases within by the vulnerable group,” Oh said. “The most painful thing was the appearance of the medical gap felt by the vulnerable.”
Citing data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Seoul Health Foundation, the city government said the proportion of public hospitals among all medical institutions in Korea is only 5.5 percent. This is far lower than that of major advanced countries such as France (45.5 percent), the United States (23.1 percent) and Japan (18.4 percent).
Under the new plan, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will use 400 billion won toward building a “Seoul-type” public hospital in Seocho District in the southern part of the city by 2026.
The hospital will be 91,879 square meters (988,977 square feet) with 600 hospital beds. It will operate as a general hospital in the area in non-crisis situations, but in the case of an emergence of an infectious disease like Covid, it will take additional precautionary measures such as restricting areas that certain patients are allowed to visit, enabling the accommodation of both infectious disease patients and others at the same time. The city also plans to store around 100 additional temporary hospital beds in idle spaces in the hospital, such as in its underground parking lot.
A system to efficiently share medical resources and personnel with private hospitals in times of crisis — dubbed Emergency Operation Center, or EOC — will also be installed in the city’s new public hospital. The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to give benefits to private hospitals providing public medical services during these times.
The city will also build a 200-bed public rehabilitation hospital in Eunpyeong District, northern Seoul, addressing complaints of a lack of such facilities. There has been a growing need for rehabilitation hospitals as Korea’s elderly population, referring to those aged 65 or older, reached 17.1 percent as of December 2021, encroaching upon the threshold of a super-aged society (20 percent), the city government explained.
A new dental hospital for people with disabilities, equipped with special equipment and facilities accommodative to wheelchairs, will also be built in the southwest part of Seoul. Seoul’s one and only dental hospital for the people with disabilities is situated in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul.
“I have once again realized the value of public health services while overcoming the health crisis over the past two years,” Oh said. “We will prepare a new public medical care through pre-emptive and aggressive investments.”
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]