NATIONAL

Seoul opens first public medical center for children with developmental disorders

By Kim Da-sol
  • Published : Oct 26, 2017 - 17:20
  • Updated : Oct 26, 2017 - 17:20
South Korea’s first and only hospital dedicated for children with developmental disorders will hold its official opening Friday, amid hopes for better care of some 20,000 young affected patients across the nation. 

Seoul Children Hospital’s Samsung Development Center in Seocho-gu, Seoul. The Seoul Metropolitan Government

Tentatively named Seoul Children Hospital’s Samsung Development Center, the hospital project was initiated by the city government in 2013 in partnership with Samsung Group and non-profit organization Community Chest of Korea. Seoul City injected 11.8 billion won ($10 million) to build the center, while Samsung chipped in 20 billion won. 

Developmental disorders refer to psychiatric conditions originated in childhood that involve serious impairment in different areas. Disorder comprises language disorders, learning disorders, motor disorders and autism spectrum disorders, while in broader definitions, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is also included. 

In Korea, developmental disorder is not covered by the national health insurance system. 

Data show that Korea’s number of developmental disorder patients is on the rise, although the overall number of disabled children has been dropping since 2011. Each year, approximately 7,000 people are newly diagnosed with the condition. 

In the past four years, those suffering with an intellectual disability went up by 8.9 percent to 195,000 patients, while those with autistic disorder increased by 27.8 percent to 23,000. About six in 10 patients with autism here are teenagers or younger. 

Spanning 11,950 square meters of space across five floors in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, the facility comprises doctor’s offices, 30 rehabilitation treatment and activity program rooms, a family counseling room, an auditorium, a gym and other facilities. 

“We hope the establishment of the facility to strengthen national research and treatment on developmental disorder and also to serve as a momentum to create a better public healthcare service,” said Yoon Ju-hwa, head of Samsung’s society volunteer division. 

Officials said the center will also provide counseling and psychological treatment for patients’ families. 

Surveys showed that psychological disorders of the caregivers of children with developmental disorders such as autism and intellectual disabilities were marked with high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Many of the Korean parents of children with developmental disorders have demanded the government take more responsibility for affected children, when the President Moon Jae-in rolled out a state program in June to increase the number of support centers and hospitals dedicated to dementia patients. 

By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)