Physicians’ protest ill-timedThousands of doctors held a large-scale rally over the weekend to protest the government’s proposal to ease regulations on medical and health care services. They claimed the government’s announcement was a de facto precursor for liberalization on for-profit hospitals. They also protested the government’s plan to allow remote virtual medical examinations between doctors and patients. They threatened to stage a collective boycott of medical services if their demands are not met.
It is hard to understand the fervid protests by the doctors. The new government measures make no mention of for-profit hospitals. Under the liberalization plan, the government would allow medical institutions to establish a subsidiary for profit, authorize corporate pharmacies and lift restrictions involving bed counts for foreign patients in large hospitals. The government denied that the measures expose the medical industry to for-profit competition. For-profit hospitals could be allowed someday, but not now. The government said the issue needs to be further debated to build a social consensus. But doctors, nevertheless, threatened to turn away patients and take a united stand against something that has not even occurred. They, too, are taking the public hostage to protect their territory and revenue base.
The government’s plan will actually benefit the medical industry. Medical institutions can generate profit by operating a subsidiary focused on attracting foreign patients or running overseas outlets. They would also be able to make up for the losses in parent hospitals. There is no reason to oppose the government’s attempt to eliminate red tape and offer medical institutions new ways of making money.
Opposition to remote medical services is also unreasonable. The government’s proposal to introduce long-distance medical services is virtually in limbo due to strong protests by doctors who raise questions involving the credibility of treatment and accountability. The government is only trying to provide minimum health care for patients in remote areas who lack medical services.
Physicians and medical professionals are morally obliged to the Hippocratic oath, demanding that they consider the health of their patients first. They must not threaten walkouts merely on suspicions and hunches. The government also should not easily waver on policy direction because of collective intimidations by concerned parties.