Hospitals too busy to take temporary holiday on Aug. 17

Choi Gwang-seok  Published 2020.07.31  17:00  Updated 2020.07.31 17:00


The government recently designated Aug. 17 as a temporary national holiday to five a rest time to medical professionals and the public, tired from fighting Covid-19. However, the medical community said it would be almost impossible to take a short break on the day.

Four out of the five largest hospitals said they would continue medical services on Aug. 17. Midsize hospitals and small clinics will also extend the business to make up for losses incurred by fewer patient visits amid Covid-19.

The Seoul National University Hospital is the only institution among the Big Five to take Aug. 17 off. More specifically, the SNUH will not provide outpatient services but still open other services such as medical examinations and hospitalization on the temporary holiday.

“On the temporary holiday, we will close outpatient service but proceed with scheduled examinations and hospitalization,” an official at the SNUH said. “In the past, we closed outpatient service only on temporary holidays.”

The official said rescheduling for outpatient reservations was a great challenge.

“After the government announced the temporary holiday designation, we were in chaos adjusting the schedules for outpatient services,” he said. “We spent several days to reschedule for 3,500 people. The rescheduling is almost over now.”

The other four large hospitals – Severance Hospital, Samsung Medical Center, Asan Medical Center, and Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital – said they would run the hospital as usual on Aug. 17. Medical staff and employees working on that day will get holiday allowances, the hospitals said.

An official at Samsung Medical Center said the institution would open on the temporary holiday. Repercussions from a brief closure of the operating room in May, after a nurse was confirmed with Covid-19, also affected the decision, he said.

“There are many patients who booked surgery during summer vacations, so it is not easy to change the reservation dates. The hospital decided to continue normal operation (on Aug. 17), even if it has to provide holiday allowances for employees,” he added.

Mid-size and small hospitals cannot take the temporary holiday because their financial losses were mounting amid the prolonged Covid-19 crisis.

“Most small hospitals will not take a holiday. If they have more business days off, they will make more losses,” a clinic owner said. “The situation is so bad that we can’t take a break. We have to keep our business open.”

Another hospital head said the hospital’s losses were so significant that the employees wanted the hospital to open on the temporary holiday.

“We can’t take a break in this situation. Many hospital operators around me said they could shut down their business soon,” he said.

Some hospitals have to run the business to meet the needs of patients.

A rehabilitation hospital director said skipping rehabilitation treatment for a day or two is likely to give patients a setback. Then, patients might complain about the temporary closure of the hospital, he said.

“My employees are unhappy (about not closing on the temporary holiday), but we have to work, given the characteristics of the rehabilitation,” he added.

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