The Korea Herald

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Nearly half of special medical equipment over 10 years old

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Feb. 20, 2024 - 14:36

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The entrance of a hospital in Seoul, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) The entrance of a hospital in Seoul, Feb. 20 (Yonhap)

The South Korean government on Tuesday said it will revamp the supervision and maintenance system for the medical equipment in the country, as recent data shows that some 42.6 percent of what is deemed "special medical equipment" here has been in use for 10 years or more.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare's recently-announced second comprehensive state health insurance program for the 2024-2028 period kicked in this year, which includes plans to shorten the term for regular inspections of equipment in use for at least 10 years. The government plans to reinforce stricter quality control for the equipment in hospitals.

A recent Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service data shows that as of June, 2023, 3,442 out of the 8,087 MRI, CT scan and mammogram machines used in South Korea have been in use for at least 10 years. The three types of equipment are defined by the law as special medical equipment.

The majority of the older machines were used for 10 to 19 years, accounting for 34.6 percent of the CT scanners, 36.9 percent of the MRI scanners and 35.3 percent of the mammography machines. Twenty mammogram units and one CT machine were over 30-years-old, while there were no records of when five CT scanners had been produced.

Rep. Nam In-soon of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea stressed that the country needs to implement a system to incentivize hospitals to stop using old machines, such as subsidizing medical facilities less for tests done with older equipment. The state-run national health insurance service, which covers all residents, subsidizes medical fees except for non-essential medical procedures such as most plastic surgery.

The current system pays the same amount of medical subsidies for MRI, CT and mammography tests conducted with either new or older machines, meaning several hospitals keep using older machines to save costs.

Of all the special medical equipment being used in the country as of 2023, 26.5 percent are secondhand machines.