More pharmacies to open at night
By Bae Ji-sook
Beginning in July, more pharmacies and clinics will be able to open at night due to deregulation of rules regarding making profits after ``normal'' working hours.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare has recently eased restrictions by exempting patients or customers seeking medicine or medical care during the extended hours from the designated ``patient quota'' in order to make it more convenient.
Currently, the National Health Insurance Corporation allows doctors and pharmacist to see up to 75 patients or customers a day and agrees to pay 100 percent under insurance coverage. The payment amount decreases from the 76th patient and beyond.
The objective was to encourage medical staff to provide in-depth and quality service under suitable conditions. But it also caused doctors to shut their clinics early.
The deregulation will be valid between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. the next day during the week; after 1 p.m. on Saturdays; and all day on Sundays. If pharmacies and doctors are able to collect insurance payments, they are more likely to operate later at night and on weekends, the authorities said. This will reduce the influx of patients at hospital emergency rooms late at night or on holidays.
Currently, there are about 131 pharmacies open with extended hours, three open all-day pharmacies and 206 drug stores open 365 days a year in Seoul. The deregulation is expected to double the numbers. There are a total of 5,025 pharmacies throughout the city.