The government has decided to substantially increase the budget and human resources for disaster medical assistance to enhance its emergency response capability in the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster in April.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare said on Tuesday that the budget will be increased to W20.8 billion (US$1=W1,017) next year, 9.5 times greater than the amount set aside this year.
Accordingly, the number of hospitals designated to provide emergency medical services will rise from the current 20 to 35 next year nationwide. They will be equipped with spare beds and wards and extra resources and personnel to treat a large number of patients in the shortest possible time whenever natural or man-made disasters occur.
"If we have more such hospitals, medical staff will be able to arrive on the site of a disaster within one hour," a ministry official said.