[Viewpoint] Cut through quarrels on medical complex

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[Viewpoint] Cut through quarrels on medical complex

Planning is currently underway for a pair of cutting-edge, comprehensive medical complexes - to be built in Sinseo Innovative City in Dageu and Oseong Life Science Complex, North Chungcheong.

The medical facilities are very attractive projects as next-generation growth engines, and will also contribute to the development of the local economy and the Korean medical industry, while strengthening Korea’s medical competitiveness.

There is a condition, however, for this blueprint to be successful: the construction and operation of the complexes must not be obstructed by political logic. Because it is a long-term national project that will take 30 years, there should be consistent government support and active contribution from local autonomous bodies.

In addition, since more than half of the investment funds will be raised from the private sector, aggressive fund-raising activities - such as introducing various international research projects and attracting domestic and overseas corporate and university research centers and cutting-edge clinical test centers - should be promoted simultaneously .

Since Sinseo in Daegu and Osong, North Chungcheong, have been selected as the venues, there should be positive competition stimulated between the two. We should make sure that no budget money is wasted on redundant investment. With that in mind, we should encourage competition that contributes to mutual development, but in a rational way so as to prevent a slanted concentration of time and money. The central government’s involvement is also necessary in order to utilize the respective strong points of each local government to the fullest.

Above all, the ultimate goal behind construction of the new medical facilities is to stimulate the medical industry and produce high-value products through the industrialization of medicine.

Toward that end, a well-organized system needs to be established to connect the development centers of new medicine and medical devices with the various research facilities of clinical test centers, universities and hospitals.

Meanwhile, there have been suspicions of political considerations and excessive competition among local governments in the process of campaigning for the venues, a selection process which was subject to delay, and earned no praise as either fair or transparent.

Another important issue is finding a way to minimize the side effects of having multiple venues host the facilities. If the selection had been made according to the original plan, only Daegu, which received an “A” grade at the final evaluation, would have been selected, but there was a change of plans and the choice was made to award two locales. Candidate venues that did not make the cut are outraged, calling it a “politically motivated decision” in time for the local elections, and they have threatened to file an administrative lawsuit. It is worrisome that the side effects of the reaction may deteriorate to ugly regionalism.

The government claims the decision was made in a fair and objective manner, but it seems likely that the suspicion of excessive political influence will continue to arise. The government needs to quash such suspicions at an early stage if it wants to accomplish the goal of creating a genuinely cutting-edge medical complex as planned. It should also take this opportunity to reconsider the selection methods for national projects. The current methods stimulate excessive competition among local autonomous bodies and contribute to budgetary waste.

Now, the first step has been taken toward a modern medical facility that will play the role of a next generation growth engine. In order for the project to be a long-term success, the medical complex should not simply be a business for its local area, but should be considered a new stimulus for Korea that will create new jobs and strengthen national competitiveness.

For a successful medical complex, we must make sure our varied national capabilities are able to be combined in harmony.

*The writer is the president of Kyungpook National University hospital.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Cho Young-lae

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