South Korea expands telemedicine service to community health centres

Seoul, April 3 (IANS) The South Korean government on Wednesday allowed community health centres to provide remote clinical services via video or phone appointments, amid disruptions to public health services at major hospitals for more than six weeks due to a mass walkout by junior doctors, a senior official said.

Telemedicine services have been extended to all hospitals since February 23 to cope with the doctors’ labour action, but community health centres were excluded, Yonhap news agency reported.

“From today, contact-free treatment institutions are expanded to public health centres and their branch offices,” Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo told reporters.

There are 246 public health centres and 1,341 branch offices in South Korea, Park said.

About 12,000 trainee doctors have been on strike in the form of mass resignations since February 20, with medical professors having submitted resignations in support of the walkout.

Medical professors, who are senior doctors at major hospitals, also began cutting their working hours on Monday to cope with growing fatigue caused by the protracted walkout by junior doctors.

To cope with the hike in the number of medical students, the government also plans to increase the number of medical professors by 1,000, the report said.

Universities are advised to submit their opinions to the government by next Monday on how many more professors will be needed, Park said.



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