Updated January. 11, 2014 04:40
The Korea Medical Association emergency committee comprised of medical doctors running their own clinics will hold a two-day "ceremony to kick off general strike by doctors nationwide to correct the medical service system" on Saturday. The committee reportedly has decided to take a half-day walkout in a weekday afternoon next week, and if the government still fails to change its plan to introduce for-profit subsidiaries of medical institutions and remote treatment of patients, the committee will go on a general strike. Medical doctors claim that the governments policy could be potentially damaging to peoples health, but in reality it is a struggle that is staged by medical doctors to protect their own interests and privileges.
The measure to allow hospitals to set up subsidiaries, including lodging facilities, is a policy designed to promote medical tourism. This measure cannot be construed as denial of public nature of medical service. Remote treatment is an area in which Korea is considered to have optimum condition to introduce due to its world-class information and communication technology. Allowing remote treatment for people living in islands or remote areas on a limited basis only constitutes a measure to ease patients inconvenience and a slight revision to the flurry of regulations weighing on the medical service field. If medical doctors operating their own clinics go on strike against this measure, who on earth among the public will sympathize with them. They will naturally earn criticism harsher than that against recent strike by rail workers.
As President Park Geun-hye mentioned in her New Years press conference, drastic deregulation of the service sector is a measure that enables Korea to take a path towards creating jobs and ushering in an era of 40,000 U.S. dollars in per-capita income. Notably, in order for Korea to shore up domestic consumption and increase quality jobs, drastic deregulation of the medical service sector is essential. The fundamental reason neighborhood clinics are financially struggling is a distorted system of the national health insurance paying doctors low medical insurance fees relative to actual treatment costs. We cannot afford to expect doctors to only emphasize medical ethics and blindly focus on treating patients under a circumstance where the more patients they threat, the more financial loss they come to incur. Despite knowing the situation, the government has been rejecting to hike medical insurance fees covered by the national health insurance for a long period of time by citing a rise in health insurance premiums. If the government, experts and stakeholders hold adequate discussions, the public have the intention to embrace a certain hike in their financial burden. The reason is that the victim of distorted medical service structure will be after all the public as medical service consumers, rather than doctors.
The main opposition Democratic Partys bid to frame doctors strike as a fight against privatization bid as it did with the recent strike by railway workers is not justified. At the partys supreme council meeting on Friday, Chairman Kim Han-gil said, Privatization of medical service will lead to a hike in medical expense, thus misguiding the public as if the Park administration is seeking to give up the public nature of medical service. As long as the national health insurance system, and the system requiring all medical institutions to be subjected to the national health insurance, medical service can never be privatized.