Due to the revised law that enhanced the requirements and procedures of non-voluntary hospitalization of people with a mental health condition, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and psychiatrists have engaged continuously in disputes. The law, which passed the National Assembly in May last year and took into effect this past May, is called the “Act on the Improvement of Mental Health and the Support for Welfare Services for Mental Patients.”
The biggest bone of contention is that to enable a non-voluntary hospitalization of a mentally-ill patient, the law requires a consensus of two psychiatrists, one working for a national hospital and the other for any other hospital, and the mentally-ill patient had to have both risks of inflicting harms on themselves and others. Previously, any patients who required hospitalization could be hospitalized regardless of their intention without any separate screening or hospitalizing procedures.
The psychiatric community raised concerns that the 140 psychiatrists working for state-run hospitals cannot participate in all evaluations of non-voluntary hospitalizations in reality. If the law limits mentally-ill patients with risks of harming themselves and others to be hospitalized regardless of their will, some patients could miss the right timing for treatment, psychiatrists claimed.
The health-welfare ministry said it would raise the number of psychiatrists at state-run hospitals and find solutions to allow psychiatrists at private hospitals to participate in reviews of non-voluntary hospitalizations. However, the psychiatric community such as the Korean Neuro-Psychiatric Association called for a revision of the law.
Responding to continued opposition from physicians, the health-welfare ministry eased related rules such as setting the evaluation reimbursement of a non-voluntary hospitalization at 50,000-60,000 won per patient in March, two months before the law went into effect. The government also extended the period of evaluations for non-voluntary admissions through enforcement degrees and rules.
However, the confusion at hospitals continued. Hospitals have had a hard time finding a psychiatrist at another hospital who can give the nod to a non-voluntary hospitalization.
The health-welfare ministry, in the end, delayed the enforcement of the law to July from May 29. Private hospitals were given a grace period until the end of the year to get psychiatrists working for state-run hospitals.
Even after the law took effect, the chaos in the medical field continued. The ministry again delayed the enforcement of the law until Dec. 31 next year. The medical community criticized the government’s policy for ignoring the reality of hospitals and only adding confusion.
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