New rules will allow for-profit hospitals

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New rules will allow for-profit hospitals

Foreign-owned for-profit hospitals will finally be permitted to open in Incheon’s Songdo International Business District, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced after it issued new regulations to allow foreign-licensed doctors, dentists and pharmacists to work in the country.

The new accreditation standards were made to get around a decade-long legislative deadlock on revising a special law on free economic zones that has prevented plans for for-profit hospitals to open.

“There are no longer any barriers for for-profit hospitals to come into Korea,” said a ministry official. “Under these conditions, there’s no reason for the government to turn down for-profit hospitals that are wishing to come into Korea.”

The ministry’s original plan to revise the special law has been thwarted since 2002, when the special law was approved during the Kim Dae-jung administration. Legislation to revise the law has been submitted to the National Assembly on four occasions since 2007, but died in committee each time.

The ministry said it decided last month to amend a regulation to allow foreigners to practice medicine in Korea instead of waiting for the National Assembly to act.

Previously, doctors with foreign medical licenses have not been allowed to practice in the country. But under the ministry’s new regulations, foreign doctors, dentists and pharmacists will be permitted to practice by submitting a copy of their medical license, curriculums and a medical report, rather than having to take Korea’s national medical exam.

The ministry also said that current medical and pharmaceutical laws would apply to for-profit hospitals, including their medical equipment, beds and pharmacies.

For-profit hospitals can be established in Songdo under three conditions, the ministry said. More than 50 percent of the hospital’s capital must be from abroad as stated under the existing special law, foreign doctors must be allowed to practice in Korea as stated under the new regulations, and current medical and pharmaceutical laws must be adopted.

As long as those criteria are met, a ministry official said, “there wouldn’t be any obstacles” in opening a for-profit foreign-owned hospital.

Since 2002, numerous for-profit hospitals have signed memorandums of understanding with the country’s free economic zones, only to be scrapped because of the held-up bill.

Meanwhile, some have criticized the ministry for wasting time by not issuing the new regulations in the first place, instead of waiting for the follow-up revisions to pass the National Assembly. Much of the criticism has been focused on the ministry’s about-face - that after trying to pass the revisions for so long, it now says that for-profit hospitals may open without a bill.

A ministry official explained that it “submitted the bill [to the National Assembly] to make things clear.”

Some critics have also cast doubt on the efficacy of the ministry’s new regulations, saying that foreign hospitals may not be willing to open in Songdo without more legally sound guarantees.

Yim Byeong-ik, an official from the Incheon Free Economic Zone, said, “The Ministry of Health and Welfare came up with new regulations, but they are not clear or specific. I don’t think foreign capital would want to invest hundreds of billions of won.”

An official from the Ministry of Strategy and Finance also said, “Investors have to have faith in the policy introduced by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, but I don’t think the trust is there yet.”

Meanwhile, establishing for-profit hospitals in the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province is once again being delayed after legislation failed to pass the National Assembly in August.


By Shin Sung-sik, Yim Seung-hye [sharon@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

10년 돌고 돌아 송도 투자병원 해법 찾았다

국회서 네 차례 법안 막히자
정부, 외국면허 고시로 허용

인천 송도 경제특구에 들어설 외국인 투자개방형(영리) 병원에 외국인 의사·치과의사·약사가 근무할 수 있게 됐다. 외국인 의료 인력이 한국에서 일하려면 정부가 인정하는 커리큘럼을 갖춘 대학을 나와 한국 면허시험을 통과해야 한다. 하지만 투자병원에 한해 외국인이 면허증·졸업증명서·성적증명서 등을 제출하면 이런 절차를 생략하도록 정부가 투자병원 추진 10년 만에 특례(特例)를 인정한 것이다.

 보건복지부는 최근 ‘외국 의료기관 등에서 종사하는 데 필요한 외국면허 소지자 인정기준’(이하 외국면허 인정기준) 고시(告示)를 개정해 공포했다.

 복지부 관계자는 13일 “경제특구 투자병원 설립을 허용한 경제자유구역 지정 및 운영에 관한 특별법과 이번에 개정한 외국면허 인정기준 고시를 활용하면 투자병원을 설립하는 데 문제가 없다”며 “이 기준에 맞춰 송도 등 경제특구에 투자병원 설립을 신청하면 허가하지 않을 이유가 없다”고 말했다. 투자병원 설립에 필요한 의료장비나 병상(病床) 등은 현행 의료법·약사법이 적용된다.

 경제특구 투자병원은 2002년 김대중 정부 때 허용한 뒤 10년 동안 후속 법안 미비 등의 이유로 지체돼 왔다. 특히 2007년 이후 네 차례나 의료인력 특례 인정 기준 등을 담은 법률을 제정하려 했으나 찬반 논란이 격화돼 국회에서 발이 묶였다. 그러다 이번에 행정 고시를 활용해 법률을 대신하기로 한 것이다. 하지만 제주도에 내국인이 투자병원을 설립할 수 있는 근거를 담은 법률 개정안은 지난달 국회에서 처리되지 않았다.

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