Jeju Can Run For-Profit Hospitals
By Bae Ji-sook
The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs has approved the establishment of profit-oriented hospitals on the southern island of Jeju.
But opposition parties and civic groups expressed concern that allowing hospitals to be run for profit will hike medical bills and drain away doctors.A limited number of hospitals in Jeju will be authorized to seek profits and share them with investors.
In Korea, individuals, schools, religious groups and other non-profit organizations are allowed to run hospitals, but profits must be reinvested.
“We believe that Jeju Island is capable of attracting tourists seeking medical treatment, who will also go shopping and take tours, as well as play golf and engage in other leisure activities. It will upgrade our national competitiveness among Northeast Asian countries,” said Roh Gil-sang, an official at the ministry.
The government submitted a Medical Law revision bill to the Office of the Prime Minister before sending it to the National Assembly.
If revised at the Assembly, the first commercialized hospital will open in four years, he said.
The Jeju Self-Governing Province welcomed the decision. Profit-oriented hospitals have been a sought-after project for the island. In July 2008, residents vetoed the introduction of them, but Governor Kim Tae-hwan has pushed for the project.
The provincial government is to build a health care town on land of 1.48 square kilometers.
It is also moving to revise laws to ease rules on the construction of hospitals, the import of foreign medicines and advertising.
The Korean Federation of Medical Groups for Health Rights denounced the plan, claiming it will raise medical bills by 20 percent.
“It is natural that profit-seeking hospitals will seek to provide excessive and unnecessary treatment,” it said. It said the hospitals’ high salaries would steal doctors away from others.
“Ultimately, all hospitals might be allowed to be run as commercial entities,” Prof. Lee Won-young of Chung-Ang Medical Center said.
Currently, foreign for-profit hospitals are allowed in free economic zones in Incheon, Busan and Gwangyang of Jeolla Province, but so far none have opened up there.