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Medical reforms should be followed after dramatic agreement

Medical reforms should be followed after dramatic agreement

Posted March. 18, 2014 06:27,   


The Korean Medical Association and the Health and Welfare Ministry agreed on key items including telemedicine on Monday, which helped a strike planned on next Monday cancelled. The two parties agreed to launch a test project for six months and postponed most government reform plans including establishing for-profit subsidiary companies. It is right to have enough discussions with stakeholders and come to a conclusion, but it should not be used for a turf war.

A large part of the proposed agreement between the association and the government is the improvement of training conditions of interns and residents. The two have agreed to gradually cut the working hours from 88 hours per week to those of western countries (80 hours in the U.S., and 44 hours in Europe), and if a hospital breaks the rule, the government could step in to take an effective action. In Korea, interns and residents work 108.3 hours per week on average, and the first year resident works 120 hours per week. Their poor working conditions not only undermine their human rights but also must be improved for the sake of the people’s safety and lives. It is nonsensical, however, to take patients as hostage and talk about a “medical strike.” Although it is related to medical insurance fees paid by the people, it could have been fixed if the medical community had made its own efforts.

The problem of overworking interns and residents is caused by the constraints in the number of medical school freshmen of around 3,000 per year. Former President Kim Dae-jung helped doctors protect their privileges by setting up a barrier to entry and fixed the number of medical school`s new students at 3,000 at the request of the Korea Medical Association in the wake of the fight between doctors and pharmacists over the separation of prescribing and dispensing drugs in 2000. Korea has the least number of doctors per person (2.1 doctors per 1,000 patients as of 2012) among 28 OECD countries. Medical consumers can benefit more with an increased number of doctors, which can be achieved by increasing the slots in medical schools. The doctor’s association claims that medical schools must cut the number of students more, but it is only out of collectivism. The medical market needs bold deregulation first, while medical tourism should be promoted.

Around 40 to 50 percent of young people want to work in five service areas – medicine, education, tourism, finance, and software. Korea Economic Research Institute said that the number of these jobs account for only 17 percent of the entire job market. A removal of barriers to entry in these areas can create decent jobs that young people aspire. The healthcare market, in particular, can create more jobs (13.7 people) than the manufacturing industry (9.3 people), and is expected to generate more than 100,000 jobs and 15 trillion won (14.05 billion U.S. dollars ) in production in related areas such as telemedicine and medical tourism by 2020. The collectivism revealed through the medical strike clearly shows why regulations need to be removed in the medical community first.