JEJU, Dec. 15 (Korea Bizwire) – The Jeju Island’s provincial government is prolonging the approval process for a Chinese for-profit hospital project after drawing fierce criticism from groups against the privatization of health care.
The Jeju government will hold a meeting on Friday to discuss the controversial for-profit Greenland International Hospital project with medical experts and civic groups, having failed to reached an agreement before the previous legal deadline.
The controversy surrounding for-profit hospitals began in April 2015, after Chinese state-owned property developer Greenland Holdings announced plans to apply for a permit to build a for-profit hospital on Jeju Island.
Unlike non-profit hospitals in South Korea where revenue serves medical purposes, for-profit hospitals are operated by for-profit corporations that share revenue with shareholders.
Currently, the government allows foreign for-profit hospitals to be built on Jeju Island and in Free Economic Zones when foreign investors account for over half of the total aggregate contribution.
South Korean nationals who visit for-profit hospitals aren’t covered by the national health insurance, and many civic groups argue allowing for-profit hospitals could have a major impact on the health care industry in South Korea.
One local civic group has been particularly vocal in its opposition to the proposed for-profit hospital, and claims that a South Korean non-profit medical organization will have management rights, while calling for the project to be completely called off.
“It’s essentially allowing Mirae Medical Center, which performs for-profit medical procedures such as anti-aging procedures and cosmetic surgeries, to run a for-profit hospital,” the group said.
“The legalization of foreign for-profit hospitals in South Korea will lead to more South Korean medical corporations following suit with foreign capital, effectively ignoring the legal system.”
In response to the charges, local government officials have pledged to look into the accusations and correct problems if found during the approval process.
The for-profit hospital project was first approved by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 2015, a venture that was set to see nearly 80 billion won invested in the construction of a sizable hospital consisting of 47 departments including a plastic surgery and skin clinic.
Last month, the Jeju government held two meetings with a panel of experts, government officials and civic groups but failed to reach an agreement, leaving the future of the project up in the air.