Soldiers cited a lack of medical equipment and experience of army doctors as the main reasons for not wanting to receive medical treatment from military dispensaries.
In response, Seoul's defense ministry unveiled plans Thursday to provide soldiers with easy access to quality medical services in private hospitals, regardless of the procedure, as part of efforts to carry out the government's comprehensive Defense Reform 2.0 scheme, a five-year plan to modernize the country's defense structure.
"The core of the policy is aimed at providing soldiers the chance to use private hospitals more freely when they need care and cooperate with other public agencies to promptly provide emergency services."
Up until now, if soldiers wanted to visit private hospitals they had to first receive treatment from a military dispensary, then get a medical certificate from a military hospital, then get approval from their unit commander and finally be assigned an executive to accompany them.
But the defense ministry aims to simplify that process by eliminating the need for the soldier to visit a military hospital or be accompanied by an executive.
The ministry says it has already conducted a test-run this year at an army unit and plans to expand such test-runs until 2020 before the full adoption for nearly all units.
Trials on quickly transferring patients to nearby hospitals will also be run during the latter half of this year with the option to expand the services of ambulance helicopters.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.