SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Korea Bizwire) — A parliamentary committee on Monday approved a contentious bill that requires the installation of surveillance cameras in hospital rooms despite strong opposition from medical groups.
The Health and Welfare Committee gave its nod to the bill to revise the Medical Service Act in a plenary session.
The bill, if finally passed at the National Assembly’s general meeting, would mandate the installation and operation of closed-circuit TV cameras in hospital operation rooms.
The passage came nine months after the committee began deliberating the bill in November last year.
A group of ruling party lawmakers proposed the bill two months earlier amid a growing need to provide protection to patients against medical negligence or malpractice, such as “ghost operations,” conducted by unqualified doctors behind the scene, or sexual crimes committed on patients under anesthesia.
The bill, however, had been pending at the National Assembly for months, having run into resistance from medical groups that claim the legislation will create distrust between doctors and patients, eventually debasing the quality of medical service.
The ruling Democratic Party, in response, has hosted a public hearing with doctors’ and patients’ organizations, and negotiated the bill’s details with the opposition bloc.
The revision bill mandates recording medical procedures in video images upon a request from the patients or their guardians and keeping them longer than 30 days for future reference in the event of legal disputes.
The bill, however, exceptionally gives doctors a right to evade the mandate if they have “valid reasons,” such as having to conduct an emergency operation.
It also calls on the government to provide financial support for hospitals to install surveillance cameras. The bill allows a two-year grace period before it officially goes into force after its promulgation.
Later on Monday, the Korean Medical Association (KMA), the country’s largest doctors’ association, which represents some 130,000 doctors, urged lawmakers to disapprove the bill during the upcoming full floor session.
“Mandating the installation and operation of closed-circuit TV cameras in operation rooms is a bill that is wrong and will endanger the health and livelihood of the people,” the KMA said in a press release.