October 14, 2022
SEOUL – While the rest of South Korea is moving on from the pandemic, returning to normal may still be far off for hospitals as they continue to treat COVID-19 patients and heed the strictest precautions.
Dr. Song Young-goo, the general director of Severance Hospital in Gangnam, southern Seoul, said during a press conference Wednesday that he didn’t think hospitals would be able to “go back to the pre-pandemic status quo any time soon.”
According to government statistics, more than 300 patients were under critical care from COVID-19 daily in the last seven-day period ending Wednesday at midnight. Over the same period, 25 patients died with COVID-19 each day on average.
Song, who is an infectious disease specialist, said hospitals around the country have never moved out of “pandemic mode” — still setting aside beds for COVID-19 patients to isolate them from other patients, restricting visits and hospital workers donning personal protective equipment during shifts.
“Hospitals are where our most vulnerable populations are, and it’s paramount we keep them safe from COVID-19,” he said.
Asked if he believed hospitals could go back to the way it was before the pandemic, and when, he said that was a question “he does not know the answer to.”
“It’s going to take some time. But hopefully the new vaccines will change things for the better.”
He added that some of the practices introduced during the pandemic may be here to stay even after it’s over, and that his hospital planned on renovating its features for better infection control starting next year.
In April, Severance Hospital opened a clinic dedicated to treating patients suffering from long COVID.
Song said the clinic “brought together an interdepartmental care team” to be able to respond to the condition’s wide-ranging symptoms.
“Long COVID is marked by unspecific symptoms and hard to diagnose, which is why we are joining departments of family medicine, respiratory disease and others to provide optimal care,” he said.
Severance Hospital in Gangnam is one of the largest hospitals in the country equipped with 800-something beds, and has ranked among Newsweek’s list of the World’s Best Hospitals for three years in a row.
The hospital also prides itself in service for foreign patients. In a 2021 survey by the government-run Korea Health Industry Development Institute, it was rated 94.5 out of 100 points in terms of satisfaction of foreign patients, surpassing the average score of 89.9.