Jeju provincial government said Wednesday that it has conditionally approved the establishment of Greenland International Hospital, Korea’s first for-profit hospital.
Unlike non-profit hospitals, for-profit hospitals give back portion of the revenue to investors, who then can use the benefits to invest more or reap profits. The new hospital will provide medical services for four departments -- plastic surgery, dermatology, internal medicine, and family medicine – and is only available to foreign patients.
|Jeju Province Governor Won Hee-ryong announces the conditional approval of Greenland International Hospital at his office Wednesday.|
“After careful consideration, we have decided to approve the hospital to actively participate in national efforts to revitalize both the national economy, restructure the declining tourism industry, rejuvenate the local economy by attracting foreign investment, and to maintain the basis of the public medical system that has raised concerns regarding foreign medical institutions,” the local government said.
Jeju provincial administration added other issues such as concern about the causing diplomatic problems with China if it disapproved the hospital.
The local government also noted that the hospital would have no impact on the domestic public health system such as health insurance because the hospital will not receive any insurance benefits under the National Health Insurance Act and the Medical Benefits Act.
“We will thoroughly manage and supervise the operation of the Greenland International Hospital, and will make a strong disposition and revoke the license of the hospital in case of any violations,” a provincial administration official said.
Because of fierce and pros and cons, the nation’s first for-profit hospital will start its operation 16 years after the central government made a positive decision on it.
Despite the approval, there is still harsh opposition against the establishment of the hospital with the “Public Opinion Investigation Committee” voting against its establishment on Oct. 4. Also, a previous public survey showing that more residents oppose the hospital (58.9 percent) than approve it (38.9 percent).
The “Jeju Citizens' Movement for Medical Commercialization Prevention and Medical Publicity Enhancement” criticized the decision made by Jeju Province Governor Won Hee-ryong.
“If the governor thinks that the people of Jeju Island are more important than Chinese capital, he has to make a decision not to open the hospital according to the result of the public opinion survey," the group said.
Governor Won has to decide whether if he is more afraid of litigation from the Greenland group or value the voice of the residents, it added.
The Korean Medical Association also voiced its opposition towards the approval of the hospital.
“Jeju Island is ignoring the recommendation against the opening of Greenland International Hospital voted by the Public Opinion Investigation Committee and is promoting the introduction of a commercial hospital only to attract foreign investment capital,” the association said.
Opening the hospital will not only have a negative impact on the domestic medical system, but it will also be a starting point for commercializing the medical sector, it added.
The provincial government apologized for failing to fully accept the committee's recommendation, saying that it has decided for the future of the Island.
Governor Won had initially promised to respect the committee's decision when it first came out. However, experts believe that he eventually changed his position due to a possible lawsuit from the hospital's investors and even China.
“We apologize for not accepting all the decisions of the Public Opinion Investigation Committee,” the Jeju government official said. “We ask for the committee to understand our decision as it was an inevitable choice for the future of Jeju Island.”
The Jeju provincial administration will do its best to prevent the weakening of the public healthcare system, which caused the Public Opinion Investigation Committee to vote against the establishment of the hospital, he added.