Making medical advances

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Making medical advances

It’s regrettable that plans to advance our medical industry through the opening of corporate-run hospitals and other measures have not progressed.

Critics say that if corporate institutions were allowed to open, then the medical industry would become polarized and the health insurance system would be shaken at its roots. But for the past five years, people have been missing the big picture due to their fear of meager mishaps.

We’ve argued frequently for the introduction of corporate-run hospitals to give the nation a new growth engine and to create more jobs. As the recent financial crisis has proven, our export-driven economy has run its course and manufacturing alone won’t expand the job market. Under the circumstances, we desperately need to improve our medical industry, which is even less profitable than manufacturing, to make it more globally competitive, and we need to actively promote medical tourism.

For instance, the manufacturing sector’s net profit in relation to its sales was 4.9 percent in 2007, compared to only 1.3 percent in the medical industry. In this structure, we can’t expect any improvement in the quality of medical care, let alone in job creation. That is why the Finance Ministry and the Health Ministry, which are at odds, have reached consensus on the need for corporate-run hospitals.

The problem is the public misunderstanding that has been swayed by populism. Despite a study that said allowing corporate hospitals would result in at least 1 trillion won ($862 million) in production and create more than 10,000 jobs, the distorted view that they would provide medical services exclusively for the rich has gotten in the way. And with a divided government, the public is even more confused.

In situations like this, the first step should be to pass the bill and revise the law to quickly establish corporate-run hospitals in free economic zones, including Songdo, and on Jeju, where such institutions are permitted. On Jeju, a local hospital that wishes to host about 60 percent of its patients from overseas as medical tourists is awaiting revision of the law. If there is any further delay, however, the joint project between Seoul National University and Johns Hopkins to build a hospital in Songdo could be for naught.

The finance and health ministries must resolve their differences immediately and persuade the National Assembly to pass the bill. The National Assembly must pass the bill quickly and open the door for development of the medical industry.

Then we can work on addressing the problems that emerge and work to expand the scope nationwide - that would be infinitely better than engaging in meaningless bickering.

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