Too Many Hospital Beds But Too Few Doctors

  • By Lee Ki-hun

    March 14, 2018 13:35

    Korea tops OECD member states in terms of hospital beds and medical equipment but ranks at the bottom in terms of the number of medical workers.

    The number of medical institutions across the country increased 1.6 percent a year on average over the past five years to 89,919 in 2016, according to a survey published by the Ministry of Health and Welfare on Tuesday.

    The number of hospital beds grew to 671,868, or 13 per 1,000 population, which is 2.8 times as many as the OECD average of 4.7. There were 1.4 to two times as many MRI and PET scanners in Korea as the OECD average.

    The number of nursing home beds rose 13.5 percent on average annually to 4.9 per 1,000 population as the population ages rapidly -- a whopping seven times the OECD average and sparking an oversupply.

    But the number of medical workers is smaller than in most other member states. A mere 1.9 doctors were available per 1,000 population, about half of the OECD average of 3.4. Korea ranked second-lowest only after Turkey (1.8). And there were only 3.5 nurses per 1,000 population, compared to the OECD average of nine.

    And yet Koreans are addicted to their hospitals. In 2016, they visited hospitals 14.6 times per year on average, more than double the OECD average of 6.9 times. Each patient stayed an average of 14.5 days, much longer than the OECD average of 8.1 days.

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