Committee formed to manage Samsung's 700 billion won donationA committee to manage the 700 billion won ($593 million) donated to the National Medical Center by the Samsung family to bolster the country’s medical infrastructure was formed Thursday, four months after the donation was made.
The National Medical Center announced on Thursday that it has designated 15 members for the Donations Management Committee with the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The committee is scheduled to hold its first meeting as early as next week.
Shin Young-soo, an honorary professor at Seoul National University College of Medicine, was appointed as the president of the committee. Shin is a public health expert who served as the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Regional Director for the Western Pacific for 10 years since 2009 and was designated as the WHO's special envoy on Covid-19 in February last year.
Earlier on April 28, the family of the late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee donated 700 billion won to the National Medical Center to strengthen the country’s medical sector against infectious diseases, with 500 billion won earmarked to build the country's first hospital fully dedicated to infectious diseases.
The National Medical Center and the Health Ministry initially aimed to launch a donation management committee in June, but the schedule was delayed for nearly three months due to differences between the two sides over the committee's constituting members. The National Medical Center was known to have recommended Shin to be appointed as the committee’s president, but the Health Ministry reportedly proposed that retired bureaucrats make up the committee. No Samsung personnel were included in the committee.
The list of members will be disclosed during the first committee meeting scheduled next week.
Yet it is still unclear whether the government will be able to design an infectious disease hospital from next year. The government left out 162.98 billion won from the 373.78 billion won that was demanded by the National Medical Center in next year's original budget to build the hospital, saying it would review its original business plan now that the large donation from Samsung came in.
If the government is not able to design the hospital and start structural engineering sometime next year, the project's timeline may face significant setbacks. After reviewing the business expenses, the National Medical Center expects the central infectious disease hospital to be completed in 2028 at the earliest, if next year’s design costs cannot be secured. This contrasts with the 2026 target set by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and National Medical Center.
“With the donation included, the total business expenses previously confirmed has changed, and we have to review the feasibility whether the total cost is reasonable or not,” the Health Ministry said. “Yet there is an exceptional clause that exempts review in the case of urgent socioeconomic needs, and we are in consultation with the financial authorities.”
“We will do our best to ensure that the infectious disease hospital is completed by 2026,” it added.
BY SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]