S. Korea illegalizes role of physician assistants at hospital operating rooms

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-08-17 10:59 Updated : 2018-08-17 10:59
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SEOUL -- South Korean health authorities illegalized the role of physician assistants, calling for a probe into medical activities such as surgical closure by scrub nurses, which have been done with support or connivance at some general and college hospitals.

The probe followed news reports that some state-run university and general hospitals have operated physician assistants (PAs) to fill deficiencies in operating rooms, performing the duties of doctors such as writing medical records, lesion suturing, prescription and treatment.

In the United States, PAs are nationally certified after a period of extensive clinical training to provide health care services under a supervising physician. They practice primary care or medical specialties, including emergency medicine, surgery and cardiology according to a legal scope of practice that may vary across jurisdictions.

"PA is a system that does not exist in South Korea," the Ministry of Health and Welfare said in a statement. "There are only legitimate medical assistance activities and illegal unlicensed medical activities here."

"It is necessary to distinguish between unlicensed medical activities at home and the vocational role of PAs which are operated abroad through a separate curriculum," the ministry said, describing surgical closure by scrub nurses as an unlicensed medical practice. Based on the results of its probe, the ministry vowed to take action.

For the safety of patients, the ministry called for active reporting and cooperation from the medical industry to eradicate unlicensed medical care, saying it would consult relevant organization to draw up guidelines on ambiguous activities in the scope of medical work.