May 25, 2023
SEOUL – One in 10 pediatric clinics in Seoul has closed in the past five years due to Korea’s low birth rate and chronic unprofitability, data showed on Wednesday.
According to a report released by the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, the number of pediatric clinics decreased to 456 in Seoul last year, down 12.5 percent from 521 in 2017.
While the clinics face an ultra-low birth rate, the government has also frozen doctor appointment fees for over 30 years.
Lim Hyun-taek, chairman of the Korean Pediatric Association, said at a press conference in March that it is “difficult to operate pediatric clinics anymore.” Compared to other departments of medicine, pediatrics only receives doctor appointment fees since there are no additional fees outside of those covered by health insurance, he said.
Lim said costs to see a pediatrician in Korea are “only five percent compared to that of the United States” and are “even lower than those of Cambodia and China.” This requires the hospital to receive at least 80 patients a day to maintain business, but the decreasing birth rate makes it impossible, he said.
By department, the number of radiology clinics also decreased by 2.4 percent from 2017 to 2022. Meanwhile, the number of psychiatry, anesthesiology and cardiothoracic surgery clinics increased.
The number of psychiatry clinics increased by 76.8 percent from 302 to 534 during the same period. It was followed by a 41.2 percent increase in anesthesiology clinics and 37.5 percent increase in cardiothoracic surgery clinics.