“South Korean Doctors Shift Specialties as Low Birth Rate Impacts Paediatrics”

## South Korea Faces Shortage of Paediatricians, Putting Children’s Health at Risk

### Introduction
South Korea is currently experiencing a shortage of paediatricians, which is primarily attributed to the country’s lowest birth rate in the world. This shortage is causing hospitals to struggle to fill paediatrician positions, leading to potential risks for children’s health, according to doctors.

### Decrease in Paediatric Clinics and Hospitals
– The number of paediatric clinics and hospitals in Seoul has decreased by 12.5% over the past five years, leaving only 456 facilities.
– In contrast, the number of psychiatry clinics has increased by 76.8% and anaesthesiology centres by 41.2% during the same period.

### Root of the Problem
– The birth rate in South Korea fell to 0.78 in 2022, resulting in a lack of resources for paediatrics.
– The insurance system has failed to adapt to the declining birth rate, further exacerbating the shortage of paediatricians.
– As a result, doctors are avoiding the field of paediatrics due to concerns about its future prospects.

### Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Response
– The Ministry of Health and Welfare acknowledges the limitations in the system and is implementing measures to address the issue.
– Data from the ministry reveals that hospitals were only able to secure 16.3% of the paediatricians they sought in the first half of 2022, a significant decrease from 97.4% in 2013.

### Impact on Parents and Children
– Parents are experiencing long waits for treatment for their sick children due to the shortage of paediatricians.
– The waiting rooms in hospitals are crowded with sick children, causing distress and anxiety for parents.
– The shortage of staff may soon hinder hospitals’ ability to provide emergency care, potentially leading to devastating consequences.

### Alarming Consequences
– In May, a five-year-old boy with a respiratory infection died after failing to find a hospital bed, sparking public outcry.
– The low fees for paediatric care in South Korea contribute to the shortage, as the insurance system has not been revised to reflect the decline in child patients.
– Paediatricians in South Korea earn 57% less than the average doctor’s salary, making the profession less attractive.

### Measures Taken by the Government
– The health ministry has introduced measures this year to address the fee and insurance compensation issues in paediatric care.
– The government plans to propose more state-backed centres and requirements for major hospitals to maintain emergency paediatric treatment.
– However, some doctors argue that these measures are insufficient to cope with the difficulties in the field.

### Impact on Hospitals
– Hospitals are feeling the crunch, with some suspending weekend treatments and reducing night-time and emergency paediatric care due to a lack of staff.
– The shortage of paediatricians is adding to couples’ doubts about having children, despite government efforts to reverse the declining birth rate.

### Paediatrics as a Risky Field
– The Korean Pediatric Association recently organized a seminar for doctors looking to switch to other fields, such as the booming beauty business.
– The income prospects in paediatrics are seen as too risky, leading doctors to avoid the field despite their love for treating children.

In conclusion, South Korea’s shortage of paediatricians is a growing concern that is negatively impacting children’s health. The low birth rate and inadequate insurance system have contributed to this shortage, leaving hospitals struggling to fill paediatrician positions. The government has implemented measures to address the issue, but more comprehensive solutions are needed to ensure the well-being of children in South Korea.

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