Plug is pulled on indebted hospital

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Plug is pulled on indebted hospital

The South Gyeongsang Provincial Government yesterday formally closed the nation’s second oldest public hospital, the money-losing Jinju Medical Center.

“I decided to go ahead with the proclamation as it was deemed that it doesn’t violate the law or go against the public interest,” said Gov. Hong Joon-pyo, former chairman of the Grand National Party, the Saenuri Party’s predecessor.

With the provincial government’s proclamation yesterday, the Jinju Medical Center lost the legal basis for its existence.

The move came five months after Hong first announced his intention to shut down the state-run medical center, citing its 27.9 billion won (24.6 million) in accumulated debt and blaming its “aggressive” labor union for the losses and the closure.

Critics, however, have argued public medical centers can be run at a loss as their main purpose is to provide medical services to those in need in local communities.

The bill proclaimed yesterday was passed on June 11 through the provincial assembly following a physical brawl among council members.

The 39 Saenuri Party legislators have a majority in the 57-member South Gyeongsang Provincial Council, and the opposition accused the party of railroading through the bill.

In an interview with the broadcaster YTN, the 58-year-old governor reiterated his earlier position on the medical center, saying he can’t afford to keep it open because South Gyeongsang has “debts amounting to 2 trillion won.” He repeated that the Jinju center has been “a safe haven for hard-line labor unionists.”

The fate of the debt-stricken medical center has become a topic of political bickering at the National Assembly and the subject of an investigation.



BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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