PM says medical personnel increase is crucial

SEOUL, - Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said Friday that an increase in the number of medical personnel is essential in the latest push to address a shortage of doctors providing essential medical services, especially in pediatrics and emergency care.

The government has reportedly been looking to raise the annual enrollment quota at medical schools by more than 1,000 from the current 3,058, starting in 2025.

"Since it takes 10 years to become a specialist after entering medical school, failure to increase enrollment now will pose a more significant threat to our society," Han said.

On Thursday, President Yoon Suk Yeol also called for an increase in medical personnel to restore local and critical health services and prepare for the nation's transition to a super-aged society.

Han said the increase alone will not entirely resolve the issue of inadequate healthcare services in remote areas and the shortage of personnel in essential sectors, such as pediatrics.

In 2021, South Korea had 2.6 physicians per 1,000 people, which is significantly below the average of 3.7 of the 38 member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to the OECD's Health Statistics 2023.

The government plans to explore various solutions, including personnel reassignment, adjusting the pricing of medical services and easing the burden of medical malpractice on doctors, according to Han.

But doctors have fiercely opposed the plan, saying the government should instead explore ways to better allocate physicians and boost compensation.

Han also assured that the government would maintain close coordination with the medical sector.

Source: Yonhap News Agency