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Tensions Between Western and Oriental Medicine Doctors Flare Up Once Again

Tensions Between Western and Oriental Medicine Doctors Flare Up Once Again

Posted June. 10, 2005 06:49,   


Can a doctor of oriental medicine be the head of a public health center?

Doctors of Western and Oriental medicine have had disagreements over computed tomography (CT) scans, the effectiveness of common cold treatments, and intramuscular stimulation (IMS) are once again arguing over the appointment of a Oriental medicine doctor as the head of a regional public health center branch.

The Korean Medical Association stated their position that “this appointment is an act of convenience for the administrators with no consideration for the health and hygiene of citizens.” Meanwhile, the Association of Korean Oriental Medicine’s position is that “the appointment followed a lawful process and there is no problem at all.”

In April, Shinan-gun in Jeollanam-do appointed two oriental medicine doctors as heads of the public health center branches in Docho-myeon and Palgeum-myeon, out of the 14 branches in the county.

Docho-myeon, which has 3,003 residents, has a doctor of Western medicine, doctor of Oriental medicine, and a dentist working at the public health center. The health center in Palgeum-myeon also has the same number of doctors to take care of the myeon’s 1,372 people.

In the whole country, there are three centers with oriental doctors as heads of local branches: two in Shinan and one in Hansan, which is in the city of Tongyeong in Gyeongsangnam-do.

Kim Yoo-jun, the head of Shinan public health center said, “This decision was made according to the regional public health law enforcement ordinance. The fact that an oriental medicine doctor has been working here for two years and understands the local environment, and that he has more experience than a western doctor who is in his first year was all taken under consideration.

The Korean Medical Association sent an official letter titled, “Objections and a Request for Amendments on the Inappropriate Appointment of an Oriental Medicine Doctor as a Local Public Health Branch Head” to Jeollanam-do and Shinan-gun.

The Korean Medical Association argued in their letter, “The local public health laws limit the specifications of heads of public health centers to a qualified western doctor because of the limitations in oriental medicine and other medical fields. The same law should be applied to the appointment of local public health branch heads as well.

The Association of Korean Oriental Medicine refuted that by saying, “The oriental medicine doctors are working as public health doctors for the well-being of farming and fishing communities. The Korean Medical Association’s comment that they not a part of the professional work force is a malicious interpretation.”

Jeollanam-do, worried that this argument will increase tensions between the two parties, recently questioned the Ministry of Health and Welfare on the issue. An official in the ministry stated that “[the ministry] believes that according to the current law, there is no problem with appointing an oriental medicine doctor as head. We plan to reply to the Jeollanam-do officials with an authoritative interpretation based on the related legislation.”

Seung-Ho Jung shjung@donga.com