SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- A major children's hospital in Seoul said Thursday it has decided to suspend most of its weekend operations starting this month due to a shortage of pediatricians, reflecting the country's dire population crisis.
Sowha Hospital announced a temporary suspension of its weekend and holiday operations, except for Saturday mornings, citing "a shortage of medical staff" and the need for "facility maintenance." However, no specific date has been provided for the resumption of operations.
The hospital, established in 1945, was among the 38 hospitals designated by the health ministry to provide medical services to children around the clock.
Critics express concerns that more hospitals will not be able to offer services seven days a week if the shortage of pediatricians continues.
South Korea has recently seen a declining number of pediatricians, as medical students opt to choose more profitable areas amid the country's dire population crisis.
According to separate data compiled by the Korean Pediatric Society, only 53 students applied for pediatric program in 2023, accounting for only 25 percent of the 208 seats available.
"The suspension highlights the critical state of the pediatric division, grappling with declining birth rates, insufficient payments and the burden of being held responsible for medical accidents," said Lim Hyun-taek, who heads the Korean Pediatric Association.
Meanwhile, only 21,138 babies were born in March this year, down 8.1 percent from a year earlier, government data showed in May. It marked the lowest number for any March since the statistics agency started compiling monthly data in 1981.
The number of babies born in South Korea has been falling on-year for 88 consecutive months.
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