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‘First visit, weekdays, and hospital’ are also allowed, but home pickup of medicines is limited as before.

“Mild patients, absorbed through non-face-to-face treatment”… Analysis of ‘pressure cards’ for doctors

Civil society “Non-face-to-face medical treatment is nothing more than a money-making platform for platform companies… It does not help emergency or seriously ill patients.”

The embers of the medical crisis that will not go out

The embers of the medical crisis that will not go out

(Seoul = Larose.VIP) Reporter Kim Byeong-gyu and Kwon Ji-hyeon = The government has decided to temporarily expand non-face-to-face medical treatment to prevent confusion in the medical field due to collective action by doctors.

In order to strengthen the medical response system in a situation where mass resignations of residents are prolonged, non-face-to-face treatment will be allowed even for ‘first-time’ patients and ‘hospital level or higher’ medical institutions, where non-face-to-face treatment was prohibited in principle.

Although it is said to be a measure to prevent patients with mild symptoms from being concentrated in higher-level hospitals, there has been criticism from civil society that the government is trying to use the medical crisis as an excuse to implement a ‘medical privatization policy to make money for platform companies.’

Prime Minister Han Deok-soo said in his plenary remarks at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters (CDSCHQ) meeting to respond to doctors’ collective action on the 23rd, “Starting today, we will fully expand non-face-to-face medical treatment so that the public can receive general medical treatment more conveniently.” .

Non-face-to-face treatment has so far been limited to ‘clinic-level’ medical institutions and ‘re-visiting’ patients, but as an exception, it has been allowed from the first visit in medically vulnerable areas, on holidays, and at night. This was only possible in a very small number of medical institutions above the hospital level.

As non-face-to-face medical treatment is fully expanded, non-face-to-face medical treatment can be received on weekdays even in areas that are not medically vulnerable or even for the first time. Until now, non-face-to-face treatment was only possible for first-time patients in medically underserved areas or on weekends or public holidays.

Non-face-to-face treatment at hospital level or higher will also be significantly expanded.

Previously, at hospital level and above, non-face-to-face treatment was strictly limited to the extent that only those patients with rare diseases for whom hospital-level treatment was inevitable (within 1 year) and patients who required continuous management (within 30 days) after surgery or treatment were allowed among returning patients.

The regulations limiting the rate of non-face-to-face medical treatment or dispensing to 30% and the regulation that non-face-to-face medical treatment should not exceed twice a month per patient at the same medical institution do not apply.

However, as before, home pickup of medicines is limited to residents of islands and remote areas, people with mobility impairments (people over 65 in long-term care, people with disabilities), patients with confirmed infectious diseases, and people with rare diseases.

There are no restrictions based on the patient’s symptoms, but realistically, it is difficult to provide non-face-to-face treatment for seriously ill or emergency patients, so ‘general patients’ are expected to be the target.

Park Min-soo, Second Vice Minister of Health and Welfare, said in a briefing that day, “We do not uniformly restrict the subjects, but it is difficult to provide non-face-to-face treatment for emergency or serious patients. If non-face-to-face treatment is not possible, it is correct to visit the emergency room or other medical institution in person.” He explained.

He added, “All regulations (related to non-face-to-face treatment) other than those related to safety have been lifted,” and added, “Since it is also permitted for hospital-level medical institutions, it will be fully possible for hospital-level institutions that treat a lot of mild outpatient cases to participate.”

He continued, “If it was a somewhat serious illness, there were often cases where I would get a referral from a local clinic and go directly to a higher-level hospital, but in this crisis situation, please refrain from doing that,” and added, “There is a lot of traffic, so even if you go to a high-level hospital, it’s difficult to get treatment.” “It is not an easy situation. Please visit and use a hospital-level medical institution in your neighborhood,” he said.

Prime Minister Han Deok-soo speaks

Prime Minister Han Deok-soo speaks

The expansion of non-face-to-face treatment has the meaning of strengthening the response to severe and emergency patients by absorbing ‘mild patients’ into non-face-to-face treatment in a situation where a medical gap has occurred due to the departure of a group of residents.

As a large number of residents at large teaching hospitals stop working, patients with relatively low severity are flocking to secondary hospitals such as general hospitals.

Because of this, problems such as overwork of medical staff and long wait times for patients are occurring.

In a briefing on the 19th, Vice Minister Park said, “If tertiary general hospitals mainly handle severe and emergency patients, and mild patients are handled by secondary hospitals such as general hospitals, the demand for (hospital-level) outpatient treatment may increase, so non-face-to-face treatment at this time may increase.” “It means allowing it,” he said.

Some in civil society have voiced opposition, claiming that the comprehensive expansion of non-face-to-face treatment is a privatization of medical care for the sake of ‘making money for platform companies.’

In a statement issued on the 23rd, the Free Medical Care Movement Headquarters, which includes about 40 organizations including the Federation of Health and Medical Organizations, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, said, “Non-face-to-face treatment is essential for emergency and severe patients, who are the biggest victims of the medical crisis. “It’s not helpful,” he pointed out.

“Only mild treatment is possible non-face-to-face, but mild outpatient treatment can still be received at local clinics.”

They pointed out that “the ones who are most excited about this full implementation are non-face-to-face platform companies,” and argued that instead of expanding non-face-to-face treatment, investment in public healthcare should be increased, such as building new public hospitals.

The government’s decision to expand non-face-to-face treatment as a response to doctors’ collective action is also seen as meaning that it will ‘pressure’ doctors by fully implementing policies opposed by the medical community.

The expansion of non-face-to-face treatment is an earlier measure than expected. Initially, the government planned to expand non-face-to-face treatment after the situation at the medical field worsened.

It is analyzed that the intention is to prepare for the prolongation of the situation by taking action early, while also sending a message to the medical community that takes collective action that they will not back down.

The government has been implementing non-face-to-face treatment, which was temporarily allowed during the COVID-19 epidemic, as a pilot project since June of last year with a focus on return visits and clinics.

Since then, legislation has been promoted centering around the National Assembly, but discussions are not moving at a rapid pace.


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