First for-profit hospital in Korea killed off

 

Greenland International Medical Centre, established on Jeju Island as a successful example of attracting foreign investment, has collapsed before it even opened.

The Jeju provincial government nullified its conditional approval of the Chinese-owned medical centre for failing to open its doors by the March 4 legal deadline. The nation's first for-profit hospital had only 47 beds, and its service was to be limited mainly to cosmetic surgery.

In 2015, the Ministry of Health and Welfare approved the establishment of South Korea’s first foreign owned for-profit hospital. China's Greenland Group built a three-storey Greenland International Hospital on Jeju Island at the cost of US$69 million. Greenland hired 100 doctors and nurses. But the plan to open in early 2017 was continually delayed until March 2019 when the Public Opinion Investigation Committee voted against its establishment.

All hospitals in Korea are non-profit ones run by non-profit corporations that must reinvest proceeds only for medical purposes. In 2012, the health ministry changed its regulations to allow for-profit hospitals in eight free economic zones and Jeju Island, if half of the total amount of investment comes from foreign investors. Local patients can receive treatment at for-profit hospitals if they forgo their health insurance cover.

Jeju Island administration delayed for nearly two years even after the Ministry of Health and Welfare gave it the go-ahead, ultimately caving in to the opposition of civic groups that claimed the for-profit hospital would shake the foundation of the country's public health service.

It then issued a conditional approval late last year while prohibiting it from treating Koreans. The hospital countered by filing an administrative suit in mid-February to have the controversial condition of admitting only foreign patients revoked.

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