| The government has decided to lift the regulation that meditels, a term referring to accommodations related to medical facilities, must be built within only one kilometer from a hospital. Now, medical organizations can set up meditels across the country without a distance limit.
The Health and Welfare Ministry and the Culture, Sports, and Tourism Ministry said on Wednesday that a revised bill on the Enforcement Decree of the Tourism Promotion Act will be reviewed and voted on at the Cabinet meeting in February and will be enforced on March 1 at the earliest.
The government has pushed for meditels since May last year to promote medical tourism. The idea has been criticized by the medical community since they have tricky requirements. The revised bill, however, eased key requirements significantly to ensure that meditels can practically contribute to medical tourism.
The requirements for meditel founders will also be eased. A initial draft of the bill announced in May last year said that meditels can be set up by either a medical institution that treated more than 3,000 foreigners (if a doctor treats a person twice, the patient is counted as two) or a person who are related to medial tourism and attracts more than 1,000 foreign patients. In the new revised bill, however, the requirements are less demanding -- a medical institution that has more than 1,000 patients from outside Seoul or a person who attracts more than 500 patients.
The mandatory ratio of foreign patients for meditels will be eased as well to focus on medical tourism. In the beginning, more than 50 percent of meditel guests should be foreigners. Some pointed out that the percentage seems excessive as the number of medical tourists could fluctuate depending on global economic conditions. Accordingly, the new revised bill decided to control the ratio not by the number of patients but by the number of rooms. Korean guests can use up to 40 percent of total rooms. In other words, if 50 rooms out of 100 at a meditel are occupied, it can give 40 rooms to Koreans and only 10 rooms to foreigners.
The government expects the eased regulation to drive the medical tourism market.