The Ministry of Health and Welfare will subsidize one public and one private general hospital in the non-Seoul metro region capable of performing epilepsy surgery to introduce robotic equipment.

The ministry will receive applications from non-Seoul hospitals wanting to use surgical robots for epilepsy treatment until Aug. 7.

Epilepsy is one of the three major neurological diseases, along with dementia and stroke. It requires national attention due to social prejudice and high depression and anxiety among patients, the ministry said.

In particular, patients with intractable epilepsy who cannot be treated with medication need precision diagnostic treatment equipment. However, it added that the supply of private medical services is insufficient due to low profitability.

In May 2020, the ministry designated Samsung Medical Center (SMC) as an epilepsy support center. In April 2021, it supported robotic surgery equipment for epilepsy at the hospital. The government also provided Severance Hospital with precision diagnostic equipment for epilepsy in December last year.

The project aims to resolve medical blind spots by providing precision diagnosis, treatment, and surgical equipment to help patients with intractable epilepsy having difficulty receiving treatment in non-metropolitan areas.

Potential support recipients are one public and one private general hospital in non-metropolitan areas capable of performing epilepsy surgery. The ministry will subsidize the cost of introducing robotic equipment for epilepsy surgery with a budget of 700 million won ($546,000). However, the ministry will provide 70 percent of the cost, and the hospital must pay the other 30 percent.

The recipients must also have facilities and spaces suitable for deploying surgical robot equipment and be able to secure and manage equipment operation personnel. In particular, they must have an epilepsy surgery team, including neurosurgeons and pediatric neurologists.

The ministry will form a selection screening group of about seven officials comprising experts in related fields to select successful applicants.

Selected institutions must report their equipment purchase plans to the ministry before the purchase and submit another report within one month of completion.