Johns Hopkins Hospital in IFEZ May Treat Koreans
By Bae Ji-sook
Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHI) will be able to accept Korean patients once it opens inside the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) if a pending revision to the current Medical Law is passed.
If the amendment goes into effect, Korean patients will be given full access to JHI in Incheon for the first five years after it opens.After that period the hospital will only be able to offer half its in-patient capacity to Koreans, the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs said Thursday.
JHI made a deal with the Seoul National University Hospital last year to build a 350-bed "branch" hospital in the IFEZ. The general hospital is expected to create more than 5,000 new jobs, and would be the first foreign run facility here.
Currently, any foreign-based hospitals opening in an FEZ can only treat expatriates, and Koreans are not allowed access to the facilities.
The government is seeking the revision of the Medical Law to allow Koreans full access to such facilities for the first five years after they open, in order to boost their profits.
A ministry official said the decision was inevitable for the development of the FEZ since there won't be enough foreign patients to keep hospitals running.
"We will restrict the ratio of Koreans to overall patients to 50 percent in the future, but for the time being, we will allow full access to Korean patients for five years to help JHI stand on its own feet," he said.
Civic groups opposed the idea. "These profit-oriented hospitals do not accept the national health insurance, which could raise the financial burden for patients," Lee Ju-ho, an official of the Korea Health and Medical Workers' Union, said.
Investors in the hospital are an American pharmaceutical company and several European healthcare goods companies, which formed a private equity fund.
Rep. Kwak Jung-sook of the Democratic Labor Party claimed that drug makers will influence individual doctors' prescriptions, saying that they will favor drugs from the shareholders.
She also said that private insurance holders signing exclusive contracts with the hospitalwill hike national medical fees.
In Korea, individuals, schools, religious groups and other non-profit organizations are allowed to build and operate hospitals, but profits must be reinvested or go toward non-profit purposes.