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Private general hospitals ordered to offer more intensive-care beds to COVID-19 patients

All News 15:07 December 19, 2020

SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's government issued an emergency order earlier this week dictating private hospitals nationwide earmark a certain portion of their intensive-care beds for seriously ill COVID-19 patients, officials said Saturday.

The administrative order, the first of its kind, was delivered by the Central Disaster Management Headquarters to all local governments Friday, the officials said, as part of government efforts to cope with the worsening hospital bed shortage caused by a recent surge in coronavirus infections.

The order mandates that about 40 excellent private general hospitals assign at least 1 percent of their beds to critically ill coronavirus patients. State-run university hospitals were also ordered to provide over 1 percent of their beds to serious COVID-19 cases.

Private general hospitals ordered to offer more intensive-care beds to COVID-19 patients - 1

"With the recent surge in confirmed coronavirus cases, it is important to secure more hospital beds to treat seriously ill patients," said the central headquarters, noting the order was issued under the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act.

It is the first time that even private general hospitals have come under an administrative order to provide their beds for COVID-19 cases.

Public hospitals have so far received most local COVID-19 patients but have now reached the saturation point, as the number of newly confirmed cases hovers around 1,000 per day. In Seoul alone, around 580 patients were waiting to be admitted to hospitals as of Friday.

Government officials expect the administrative order to free up about 300 intensive-care beds from private general hospitals.

Some critics, however, said the administrative order could be unrealistic because 1 percent of all beds at excellent private general hospitals actually represents over 20 percent of their available intensive-care beds.

They said an excessive allotment of critical-care beds to COVID-19 patients may weaken the private general hospitals' resources to treat critical non-coronavirus patients.


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